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Hundreds of unqualified people turned away from North Dakota COVID-19 vaccination event

More than 300 people are not eligible to get vaccinated. Health officials blame it on people sharing a link not meant to be shared.

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GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks Public Health has 1,100 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to distribute at the Alerus Center this weekend.

On Thursday, Feb. 4, they had to tell 360 people who had appointments that they aren't invited.

"We are taking steps to make sure this can't happen again," said Haley Bruhn with Grand Forks Public Health.

They noticed late Wednesday night, Feb. 3, that a third of the people registered don't meet the qualifications to get vaccinated.

"I don't think anyone had malicious intent, or weren't trying to take vaccine from someone who is older with chronic health conditions, they just saw it as an opportunity to get signed up for the vaccine," Bruhn explained.

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The health department blames the issue on people who are eligible sharing an online registration link with others.

"A group of tech savvy individuals who were wanting to share the vaccine opportunity with other people around them, really promoted this link, perhaps shared it on social media," said Bruhn.

The only people eligible to be vaccinated at this event are people between the ages of 65-74 with two or more high-risk medical conditions.

"We saw everyone from people who were 9 years old, which the vaccine isn't even licensed for people that age," Bruhn said.

For these mass vaccination events, the Grand Forks Health Department uses a software program provided by the state. Other counties use it too, and have reported similar issues, but not to this magnitude. Technicians are now working on software upgrades to make sure the link remains private.

"Don't share that link with family and friends," Bruhn cautioned.

Grand Forks Public Health is confident it can fill those 360 open spots, and no vaccine will be wasted.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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