As vaccine eligibility broadens, we are at risk of leaving our most vulnerable community members behind. Disparities in COVID mortality and vaccination rates in Minnesota are well documented, yet vaccine providers must adhere to metrics that prioritize speed and in doing so harm equity. To solve this, we should relax the focus on vaccination speed and repeal the "three/seven" rule.
The three/seven rule requires that clinics and pharmacies use 90% of their vaccine within three days of delivery and 100% within seven days. If not, they risk their future vaccine supply. Clinics do not have much advance knowledge of the vaccine quantity they will receive week to week and therefore race to vaccinate people when supplies arrive. This often means scheduling appointments online, which is fast. It is easy to reach people who are online and can drive a variable distance on short notice. It is harder to reach people who don't have a phone or internet, can't easily create or track multiple online pharmacy accounts, don't speak English, or are homebound or rely on public transportation. So, in meeting the three/seven requirement, Minnesota vaccinators are leaving these people out.
This is why Gov. Tim Walz must repeal the three/seven rule. Instead of measuring only speed, we should hold clinics accountable to equity metrics. What percentage of vaccines go to people who are Black or Indigenous, other people of color or people who are non-English speaking, disabled or eligible for services like SNAP or Medicaid? We get the results our system prioritizes, and we need to start prioritizing equity.
Hannah Lichtsinn, Mendota Heights
The writer is a physician and chair of Our Stories Our Health.
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Really? Gov. Walz, what gives you the right to block out the majority of people between the ages of — let's say — 30 to 65 to allow teenagers to receive the vaccine along with us. Many of us, some who voted for you (I did not) have been waiting patiently, with others more urgent to receive their vaccine. Now it's going to be a free-for-all. I am 63, have a pre-existing condition and have not been able to get a vaccine appointment through my Allina clinic because I am under the age of 65. I am now in a pool of hundreds of thousands of people. On the front page of the Star Tribune on Friday, a subheadline read "How to score a vaccine appointment." This is not a game! We deserve better.
Julie Ruether, Shoreview
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Chris Serres got it right in his excellent look ("VA makes vaccination easy for vets," front page, March 26) at how the Minneapolis VA has handled the COVID-19 vaccination effort. As a Minnesota vet getting a great deal of medical care at our Minneapolis VA Medical Center, I have witnessed in person the truly amazing performance of VA professionals, staff and service workers confronting this urgent and demanding task.
Despite staff shortages due to unfilled positions at the VA, the vaccination program has been carried out carefully and expeditiously. I was at the Minnesota VA on the very first day of inoculations, initially targeted at medical staff and workers in close contact with patients under treatment for COVID. I have returned there since, witnessing the mass vaccination program in progress.
With only a few glitches and misreads on eligibility rules and priority scheduling, the program rapidly expanded to where it is now: Every veteran can easily get an appointment and get vaccinated quickly.
As Serres wrote, the VA health care system overall provides care that is equal and often superior to that provided by the private sector. Certainly there are shortcomings that need to be addressed, including the current lack of full funding and full staffing. But the preservation of this successful public health care system is vital to veterans and the entire nation. Privatization would be a tragic mistake.
Andrew Berman, St. Louis Park
U.S. cannot be the forever mediator
Why does the Star Tribune Editorial Board continue championing a two-state solution? ("Israeli impasse imperils progress," March 27.) Israel has carved up the West Bank, creating small, densely populated, noncontiguous Palestinian enclaves much like the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis now live in Jewish-only settlements constructed in violation of international law on Palestinian land. Other Palestinian land has been taken by Israel for Jewish-only highways, nature preserves, checkpoints and military zones. At this point, there's not enough contiguous territory left outside of Israel's control to create a viable autonomous Palestinian state.
President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are still paying lip service to a two-state solution yet won't roll back the U.S. embassy's move to Jerusalem approved by former President Donald Trump. The two-state solution is dead on arrival. Demolitions of Palestinian homes, new settlement construction and settler land-grabs continue unabated, putting the last nails in the coffin. An option worthy of consideration is an end to the military occupation and creation of one state with full rights of citizenship for Palestinians living within the territories and in regional refugee camps who choose to return.
It is up to the disputing parties involved to decide their destiny and resolve their differences. Following unilateral actions taken during the Trump administration on Israel's behalf, the U.S. has forfeited claims to being a fair broker in future negotiations. It's time for the U.S. to step aside and invite other nations to serve as mediators.
Barry B. Cohen, St. Paul
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Prof. Ron Krebs made an important point in the March 27 editorial about the Israeli elections dominated by right-wingers. He said American officials must understand that "at the end of the day, Israeli political leaders will ... pursue policies that are in line with their vision for the state of Israel."
In plain words, Israel will define and pursue its own interests — even when they conflict with the interests of its generous ally, the United States. The latest example of this is the attempted sabotage of Biden's promise to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aggressively tried to prevent the U.S. from signing that treaty in 2015. When Trump gained the White House, he granted Netanyahu's wish — leaving the treaty, prioritizing Israel's wishes over U.S. interests in diplomacy.
Israel's hawkish right wing and its U.S. lobbyists are now demanding that before Biden rejoins the Iran agreement he first obtain more concessions from Iran — a tactic that looks like "delay to destroy."
Israel, an unacknowledged nuclear power, will indeed continue to promote what it considers its own interests. But so must the United States. It is in the interest of our own citizens to promote peace through diplomacy. Whenever the interests of our two nations conflict, the United States must act in our own interest, not Israel's.
Rejoining the Iran deal now — without delay — is in the interest of the citizens of the United States.
Mary Christine Bader, Wayzata
Simple joys: Something in the mail
The story "Postcard project puts love in mailboxes 366 times" (March 27) made my heart sing. And smile. My brother Tim, who lives in Austin, Texas, has a three-ring binder full of names and addresses of people to whom he sends postcards. I'm one of those lucky people who gets one each week. In my birthday month I get one per day! Each card has an inspirational quote, and then a memory, a recent event, a poem written by Tim, or sometimes a discussion of the weather. I respond in turn. Many times the picture on the postcard generates a memory for one us or a dream we have of places to go, things to do or just desiring peace in our lives. We share that memory or dream. We've been going back and forth for many years.
I'm lucky to be in that binder on the receiving end of my brother's creativity. Now my cousin LeeAnne in Sammamish, Wash., sends a postcard a week. These connections are so important to me.
Write a letter or send a postcard to someone you miss, love or just want to greet. Thanks to the article's author and the postcard writer for a good story.
Jennifer A. Mateer, White Bear Lake
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