My wife found the Golden Ticket. She got a phone call from a neighbor who got a phone call from a doctor who said that her health care system had extra doses and was offering the vaccine to its eligible patients (over 65). You had to call this secret telephone number to make an appointment. We both jumped on the phone and dialed away. It took me back to my teen years, calling the local radio station trying to be the seventh caller to win tickets to the big concert. She received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday. Not being a patient of a doctor in her system, I was excluded.

Each of my three children volunteered to try and log on to the Minnesota Department of Health's website on Tuesday morning to see if they could register me for the vaccination. Alas, I discovered that MDH had changed its policy. I can now register to be part of a lottery ("Minnesota seniors given 24-hour window to sign up for random vaccine slot," StarTribune.com, Jan. 25). Not sure how they will draw our names off the internet — like some giant bingo wheel in the ether. Last time I was in a lottery with the government, it was 1969 and General Lewis B. Hershey was picking birth dates out of a big glass jar. I did well in that one; maybe it's a good sign.

I heard from a friend that another friend told him that his children told him that they got the vaccine because there were extra doses at a nursing home that the home did not want to waste. I don't think the kids were residents of the home. Someone in another state went to a drugstore and put their name on a waiting list.

It all feels like a giant scavenger hunt.

Maybe things will change. Maybe there will be some orderly way to get the shot. I remember some public efforts at vaccination that seemed to go well: lining up in third grade to get the polio vaccine (it was red, and we all said it was monkey blood). And the swine flu shot seemed to roll out without too many noticeable problems.

In the meantime, I plan to get up early and fill out the online form with MDH. Who knows, maybe I will get a Golden Ticket.

NEIL MEYER, Minneapolis
• • •

Kudos to the community vaccine center in North Mankato. I received my first vaccine shot on Saturday. The clinic was safe, very well organized and efficient. This is good news for Minnesota as we work to defeat COVID.

Bonnie Fowler, Dundas, Minn.
• • •

All I can say is, wow, now Gov. Tim Walz has turned the ability to get a COVID vaccine into a lottery. What ever happened to "following the science"?

My 86-year-old mother-in-law is healthy and lives alone on five acres near Stacy, Minn. She used to volunteer at the local hospital, the local thrift store and her church. She would love to do all these things again but will not be able to until she receives the vaccine. Unfortunately, Walz has made that almost impossible by deprioritizing our oldest citizens and offering the vaccine lottery to everybody over 65 — a lottery where a few lucky people might get vaccinated but most will not. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the science says my mother-in-law's chance of dying from COVID is seven times greater than the chance of a 65-year-old and that she's almost three times more likely to be hospitalized than a 65-year-old.

Walz has said many times that his decisionmaking is based on listening to experts and following the science. If his goal is to reduce deaths and decrease hospitalizations, he must change this policy and vaccinate our oldest citizens first. That is following the science.

Jim VanSomeren, Greenfield
• • •

May we report back from the trenches? Our "senior experience" with getting a vaccine at one of the pilot sites this week was quite eye-opening. First, the sites are very well run, with National Guard troops directing the flow and keeping strict order. Second, nursing staff was efficient and helpful and many came from all over the state to assist. Third, the phone lines last week crashed and the computer program was sketchy at best and mercurial.

So MDH needs to do two things: Let people know this is just a pilot program and that it is working out the kinks. Rollout is tied to exact doses available; that is why there are appointments. It is not a free-for-all, and this is a template for shots being given at pharmacies in the future. So cut the state some slack, let it improve its computer program and give credit where due — to the National Guard and nurses who are helping the program proceed.

This is a "roll up your sleeves, Minnesota — we can do this!" moment, as our hardworking governor would say. And many seniors in line said their grandkids helped them navigate the website. Funny ... this can be a family project as well. No more grumbles — chins up, everyone!

Pamela and Jeremiah Kearney, Edina
• • •

Does it make sense for MDH Director Kris Ehresmann to announce an "extreme shortage" of vaccine doses when only around half of the existing stock has been administered? MDH should be on a war footing, mobilizing everyone who can give shots to work so that we are using 80% to 90% of our supply at any given time.

Robert Osburn, Roseville
• • •

My husband and I — both with medical issues and in our mid-80s — were thrilled with Monday's lead editorial bemoaning the difficulty those of us living on our own are facing in attempting to get the COVID vaccination ("Drill down further on vaccine rollout," Jan. 25). It seems that all of us in our advanced age group and living on our own have been completely forgotten, although we tend to be more likely to die if we contract the disease.

Beth Dhennin, Minneapolis

DEVELOPMENT

Save Maplewood's open space

On Jan. 27, the city of Maplewood will hold its second community forum regarding "redevelopment" of two county properties: the 88-acre Ponds at Battle Creek golf course and a 77-acre parcel that is located between Battle Creek Park and Ramsey County Correctional Facility. We've seen press regarding the golf course but nothing about the 77 acres.

At the first community forum, city planners referred to the 77 acres as undeveloped agricultural land. In fact, this land has not been farmed for many years. This has allowed the development of a rich grassland habitat that is used by bobolinks and other grassland birds that are not found anywhere else in southern Ramsey County. The National Audubon Society reports that grassland species are among the most imperiled birds in the United States.

The endangered rusty-patched bumblebee was recently documented at the Ponds golf course. Its preferred habitat is grassland, so it's likely to be present in the nearby 77-acre grassland as well. A complete biological inventory should be undertaken.

These 77 acres are bounded on two sides by Battle Creek Park. The park and these 77 acres are one contiguous natural area. This grassland should be officially included in Battle Creek Park, thus preserving a larger natural habitat for species in steep decline. To do otherwise would be a devastating mistake.

The city's assumption seems to be that these sites will be more valuable if they are developed. In fact, the opposite is true. Now, more than ever, with this terrible global pandemic, much of human society can see how important these patches of open space are for the environment, for human mental and physical health and for community well-being. Let's work together to keep these valuable gems from disappearing in our communities.

John Zakelj, St. Paul

The writer is vice president of Friends of Maplewood Nature.

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