A message intended for just 20 Minnesotans was erroneously sent Saturday to a much larger group enrolled in the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Pilot Program, with repeated e-mails and text messages wrongly asserting their appointments for vaccinations were "unauthorized and no longer valid."

An outside vendor to the state government program sent the messages, and followed up just before noon with apologies for the error.

"A text/e-mail erroneously went out from Primary Bio to some Minnesotans saying their appointment was unauthorized and invalid," the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement. "For the vast majority of Minnesotans, this message was in error."

The original message was intended for 20 people who, due to a software glitch, were able to register for an appointment despite being ineligible.

Those who received the message in error were told in a follow-up message to show up for their appointments as scheduled, the statement said.

Roughly a dozen readers contacted the Star Tribune Saturday morning after receiving the erroneous messages. In all cases, those who received messages already had obtained a first dose of vaccine through the state program, and have appointments scheduled to receive a second dose.

Several readers also indicated they received vaccine during the first week of the pilot program, before Minnesota moved to a lottery system for granting access to shots. About 6,000 people received shots during the first week.

A Health Department spokesman wrote in an e-mail "there is no indication that the erroneous message from Primary Bio led to any no-shows at the sites."

The sender on the e-mails was listed as Primary, a trade name for a software company called Primary.Health.

The company announced this month a Minnesota Department of Health contract for providing vaccines at 20 community centers.

The company's website says Primary.Health manages and automates COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs, and lists the address of a California-based firm called Primary Diagnostics Inc.

The company did not respond to a phone call and message seeking comment.

Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck