St. Louis County Public Health is reminding the community not to share registration links for COVID-19 vaccination appointments with others after the county had to turn away several people with ineligible appointments at one of its vaccine clinics.

Those who receive an email from the county or their employer can use the registration link themselves, read a news release from the county. However, they should not share the link with others. Those who do attempt to use the link to schedule an appointment will be turned away from the site, along with those who show up without an appointment.

"What we're seeing is people were sending it to eligible people. There's no stopping them from sending it to other people," St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook told the News Tribune. "We've unfortunately had to turn away a number of people at our clinic yesterday and today in Duluth because people are getting the links who are within a priority group and there's nothing preventing them from registering."

The people who should be scheduling an appointment at one of the county's three "semi-permanent" vaccination clinic sites will be notified either by their employer or directly by the county.

While the state of Minnesota and health care providers are working on vaccinating those ages 65 and older, county public health is focusing on other groups. The county is continuing to administer vaccines to people who either live or work in St. Louis County and fall under the phase 1a priority groups. The county's vaccination clinics are also serving K-12 educators or licensed child care providers selected by their employers.

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In addition to checking people at the door to make sure they're within the group the county's vaccine site is intended to reach, Westbrook said they are now going through the list of registrations to catch those people who either aren't eligible or should be receiving their vaccine elsewhere.

"We are trying to look through the registrations now to do what we can ahead of time so people aren't coming to the clinic, spending their time coming to the clinic and taking up clinic registration time only to be turned away," Westbrook said. "It's tough. We want people to get vaccinated. We're happy to see that a lot of people are wanting vaccine. We just want to adhere to the CDC and the Minnesota guidelines with who we're vaccinating right now because of the limited supply."

Westbrook said her team was afraid this problem would arise once appointments started to open up to broader populations, but they didn't know how to prevent it from happening using its clinic scheduling platform. Other counties using the same system have experienced similar problems, she said.

Local public health is just one of five systems administering vaccines in Minnesota. The others include hospitals, pharmacies, tribal governments and the state. Those ages 65 and older who want a vaccine should continue watching for announcements from their health care provider and the state on when registration will open again for the state's lottery system.