Minnesota's COVID-19 vaccination prizes have lured few people

Promises of tickets to the fair or a state parks pass are luring few Minnesotans to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Only 6,158 people have requested a prize over the first week of the state's new incentive program, according to state Department of Health records. About 45,000 people got their first vaccine dose over this time period, meaning roughly one in seven people claimed a prize.

The $25 Visa gift card is the most popular item, followed by Minnesota State Fair tickets, the Valleyfair pass, and the state parks pass, said Erin McHenry, a spokeswoman for the health department.

At the current pace, it would take more than three months to exhaust the 100,000 prizes available. Minnesota is giving the incentives to the first 100,000 people who get a shot between May 27 and June 30. To claim a prize, click here.

During at event to highlight a new pop-up vaccination site at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Gov. Tim Walz downplayed the slow pace.

"We would certainly like it to be faster. But there is no template for this," Walz told reporters. "I think we’ll just keep pushing (the vaccines), and we’ll go door to door."

Nearly 3 million Minnesotans have gotten at least one vaccine dose, 65 percent of the state's population ages 16 and older.

Walz has set a goal of getting to 70 percent by July 1, though Minnesota is at risk of missing that benchmark as the vaccination pace has slowed considerably. Over the past week, an average of 5,809 people have gotten their first dose each day.

The airport pop-up vaccination site reflects a shift in strategy from state health officials. The federally run site at the State Fairgrounds is closing Tuesday, and the state is moving Johnson & Johnson doses to the airport.

Minnesota will do more pop-up sites in the future, Walz said. But all eight of the state-run mass vaccination sites are staying open for now.

"We’re in it to make sure everybody’s vaccinated and we can open fully," said Anne O'Connor, who heads the state emergency operation center's testing and vaccination efforts.