Minnesota Hospital Association urges MDH to end vaccine lottery system, send more doses to health care providers

In a letter sent to Minnesota health officials on Friday, the Minnesota Hospital Association sent a pointed message urging the state to end the community COVID-19 vaccine lottery system and increase the allocation to health care providers.

MHA President and CEO Rahul Koranne wrote that the state’s hospitals believe Minnesota’s vaccine allocation process has reached "an untenable crossroads," adding that the lottery system "is hurting patients and communities."

Koranne wrote to Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm that the state should return to the regional health care coalition model for vaccine distribution.

"It is not providers who are put into the state’s lottery for health care providers; it is patients and communities. The result of this lottery process, as it stands, needlessly brings public trust in all of us into question," Koranne said in the letter.

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"Early in the pandemic, your department repeatedly emphasized the regional coalitions’ central role in responding to the pandemic. We urge you to immediately return to this model beginning Monday, Feb. 8 to distribute the vaccine as you did early in the vaccine rollout," he added.

The letter also says MHA doesn’t believe the state’s current plan ensures public trust, stating that the mass vaccination sites aren’t close enough to many Minnesotans that could be more easily helped by local clinics and hospitals. However, Koranne said hospitals need the ability to plan for the number of vaccines they’ll need to administer so they can identify eligible patients and contact them to schedule appointments.

"Minnesota’s health care organizations have already proven they can effectively vaccinate Minnesotans and can accelerate vaccination with greater allocation. I ask for your renewed partnership in using our infrastructure and our health care heroes to get shots in arms," Koranne stated.

MDH responded to the letter Friday night saying in part, "We appreciate the important partnership role health care providers play as we work to vaccinate as many Minnesotans as quickly as possible so we can crush COVID-19. We also understand that partners who share common goals can sometimes have different views on particular aspects of how to accomplish those goals.

As we told MHA in messages Jan. 23, Jan. 29 and again today, we recognize that the current randomization process for allocating a portion of our doses, while based on the ethical principles established by the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Collaborative, has been challenging for some health care providers. We informed them the state would be moving away from the randomization process for small and mid-sized providers and that was confirmed in an email today. Starting with vaccines arriving the week of February 15th, we will be transitioning to a process where the eight regional health care coalitions will work with the providers in their regions to direct COVID-19 vaccine allocations based on provider capacity, community needs and statewide priorities.

Not every Minnesotan can access care through private health care providers. We need to make sure everyone has somewhere to get the vaccine. As we continue to be committed to our partnership with health care providers, we are also committed to ensuring that vaccination in Minnesota is a process that fully accounts for the persistent disparities facing so many Minnesotans."

Thursday, MDH said the state’s 83,825 vaccine doses for next week would be distributed as follows:

  • 3,000 doses will go to tribal governments,
  • 7,000 doses will be allocated for those 65 years old and older,
  • 10,000 doses will go to educators,
  • 39,000 doses will go to health care facilities,
  • 14,000 will go to local public health partners,
  • 4,000 will go to pharmacy partners,
  • 5,000 will go to the Department of Human Services for group home settings.