My boyfriend's daughter turned 12 at the beginning of this month.

We spent the summer counting down the days until she could get her first COVID vaccination. Although she hates needles, she knew that a vaccination was her ticket to a return to sort-of normalcy. And we considered what she might do with that $100 Visa gift card she'd receive as her reward ("incentive"). Then that program expired. Oh well, OK. She still wanted the shot.

The day after her birthday we trekked to the Mall of America so she could get jabbed by experienced vax providers and then shop for trendy tweener clothes. We made an event of it. She knew it was the right thing to do for her classmates, friends, teachers and family.

Then she got a text from a friend that informed her that if she'd only delayed getting her first vaccination she'd have been rewarded with a $200 Visa gift card.

Now, Gov. Tim Walz has kids. He knows that $100 is a lot of money to a 12-year-old or a 15-year-old. It's a lot of money to many adults, too. Now he is again rewarding bad behavior (and, frankly, punishing the good) by doubling the vaccination incentive to people who just won't do it because it's good for our community's health and safety. I ask, if someone won't take $100, why would $200 change their minds?

It is time to stop rewarding bad behavior. Vaccinations are a common good for our community. The 12-year-old in my life knows this well. The time for carrots is over; get out the stick. I propose we require COVID vaccination proof on our 2021 Minnesota tax returns, like we do for health insurance coverage. No proof of vaccination for yourself and your dependents? Fine, you pay a penalty.

And how about rewarding any 12-year-old who gets their first vax within a month of their birthday with a $50 gift card? That is also a lot of money to a kid, and you know it will go back into the economy as quickly as they can get to Hot Topic.

Kelly O'Brien, Minneapolis


In her opinion piece on pharmaceutical patents, Annette Meeks wrote: "We all can agree that for this pandemic to end, we need to work together to quickly expedite the distribution of safe vaccines around the world" ("Side effects of voiding drug patents would be severe," Opinion Exchange, Oct. 19).

I had to read the sentence several times thinking there had to be a typo or maybe a misprint. A frequent spokesperson for the Minnesota Republican Party now with the conservative Freedom Foundation of Minnesota actually said this. This is the same Republican Party that fiercely fought the governor's emergency orders, has built political support around anti-vaccination and anti-masking positions and is currently holding up the special legislative session for disbursing federal relief funds to first responders.

Meeks, if you truly meant these words you are either way too late getting to the table or you are completely out of touch with the Republican Party of the nation and the state. "We're all in this together" was the slogan of spring 2020. But it became clear very soon last spring that we were not all in this together! Followers of then-President Donald Trump followed his lead and fought every effort to end the pandemic. Some are still calling it a hoax.

Republicans quickly politicized the public health pandemic that has killed over 700,000 Americans and 8,500 Minnesotans. They continue to fight every public health effort in spite of the toll it has taken on our people, our hospitals and our medical professionals.

Imagine if the Republicans had decided the well-being of the people, the state and the nation were more important than finding a political wedge issue and supporting the very behaviors that have kept us from moving beyond this pandemic. They still could, but it seems unlikely. Politics are apparently more important than our well-being and our health!

Jay Jaffee, St. Louis Park


Forward-thinking support needed

Patrick Condon's Sept. 24 article ("Farmers struggle to access funding") discusses the lack of federal support for the growing number of farmers interested in improving conservation practices. Speaking of federal support, I'm compelled to mention the largest reason conservation is a concern in the first place.

Over the last few centuries, wild spaces have been converted to cropland for livestock feed, spurred on by industry interests and taxpayer subsidies. This food system is inefficient. Depending on the type of livestock, there is a calorie conversion inefficiency by a factor of up to 20. Meaning, for every 20 calories fed to the animal, only one is rendered in a final product. Unfortunately, federal dollars disproportionately support animal agriculture, despite consumer markets demanding the contrary. Market data shows consumers increasingly opting to cut out the middleman (or middle animal) in favor of plant-based proteins, citing health, environmental, preference and ethical reasons.

My husband and I recently purchased land from a bankrupt dairy farmer. Our plan is to cultivate hemp and build a geothermal greenhouse to grow produce. I wonder, if that dairy farmer hadn't been pigeonholed by federal funds into an industry at odds with consumer and planetary interests, would his fate have been different?

What if federal dollars aligned with planetary, consumer and farmer interests? The Farmer and Rancher Mobility for Sustainability (FARMS) amendment would connect livestock farmers with the resources required (when they're ready) to diversify into producing fiber-rich whole plant foods for direct human consumption. This support is desperately needed. Congress, please cosponsor and advance this bill.

Justina Miller, Inver Grove Heights


Live up to what its legacy teaches

St. John's University students need to be held accountable for their words and actions. That's what I tell Johnnie baseball players when they utter an F-bomb audible in the stands or fail to sprint to first base where their lack of effort is visible to every fan. Those offenses irk me.

The sex game allegedly played by a number of SJU students is immeasurably worse than cursing and jogging ("Sex contest is alleged at St. John's," Oct. 22). The students in Patrick Hall, if the allegations are true, have totally disregarded St. John's reputation with unguided, selfish indulgences. Their offense embarrasses, disappoints and wounds me and all SJU alumni.

The Honorable H.C. Waite, among the first St. John's graduates, gave us the words to live by in his commencement address of 1882. All Johnnies particularly need to heed his directive published in a SJU history.

"Let your attendance here never bring reproach upon the institution when in afterlife you have become merged in industrial or professional pursuits," he told the graduates. "Look back to [SJU] as a foster mother and extend to her that consideration she has so bountifully extended to you. Protect the reputation of the institution you have assisted in making [emphasis mine] and when you go hence, go forth bravely, boldly and wisely to your life tasks."

I subtly echoed his caution with the SJU #1 logo that I designed 100-plus years later. My message was never loud enough or clear enough.

Yes, Johnnie teams want to be number one, want to be the best. I was suggesting something more essential: Strive to be number one in all we do, in the classroom as well as in athletics. Be the best one son, best husband, best father. Be the best employer, employee, citizen. Be a No. 1 human being. And don't embarrass your mother.

The pressure is on for all of us affiliated with St. John's not only to protect a reputation but repair it in all we do.

Thom "Woody" Woodward, Sartell, Minn.

The writer is retired director of SJU alumni relations and volunteer assistant baseball coach.

We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts here.