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VACCINES IN THE MED CITY: New pilot site prepares to open despite limited supply

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COVID-19 vaccine

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- With a new vaccine site coming to the Med City for the Minnesota vaccine pilot program, many Rochester residents were excited to get the chance of getting their first dose.

Educators, school staff, childcare workers and anyone older than 65 is eligible, but there's not near enough of the vaccine to cover all of those people.

Currently the pilot program has 12,000 doses available statewide. The call center to set up appointment received more than 83,000 calls Tuesday and the appointment website saw up to two thousand hits per second. As of the late afternoon, the website said all appointments are full for this week.

However, state leaders and health experts are telling Minnesotans to be patient as the state handles these long wait times.

"The first thing is just wake up and understand what's happening. Second of all, we can't make the vaccine go much faster than it is right now. I know that the Biden administration will do all that it can to move the vaccine out there," said Michael Osterholm, infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota.

"The problem is that we literally have millions in Minnesotans. In many of these sites, we're going to have hundreds of doses until the federal government moves faster," said Gov. Tim Walz.

One of those sites with limited doses will be here in Rochester.

"This attempt, while very welcomed in our community, is going to cause frustration if you're not one of the ones selected of course," said Rochester Mayor Kim Norton.

Only a small percent of the people who tried to make appointments Tuesday had success.

We reached out to MDH who told us in a statement, "the system experienced extremely high call volumes and traffic to the website, but MN-IT and its vendor are working to address the issue."

"People are really going to have to be patient," Norton said. "This is a pilot to make sure they have all the kinks out and we get it working. As more vaccine is available, they'll be able to get to more people in the coming weeks. Be patient."

The vaccine going out to those in priority group 1B while group 1A is still yet to be finished.

"Mayo Clinic and long term care facilities are still immunizing their clientele," the mayor said. "This is actually moving it into the community faster than we expected."

Anyone who did not get a scheduled appointment this week can try again next Tuesday at noon. The Rochester vaccination site aims to get accommodate everyone who gets an appointment.

"As long as the federal government continues to send the state enough vaccinations to do this," Norton said. "It is not just a one and done."

Alex Tejada

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