ST PAUL, Minn. — Just about everyone loves getting free stuff.
Governor Tim Walz is counting on that premise to kick-start state COVID vaccination numbers that have slumped in recent weeks, announcing the new "Your Shot to Summer" program. The campaign aims to get 70% of Minnesotans age 16 and up vaccinated by July 1, and is open about using the reward system to do it.
The first 100,000 people to get their first COVID shot between May 27 and June 30 will get to choose from a wide range of incentives, ranging from tickets to summer attractions to fishing licenses and state park passes.
“Summer is here, vaccines are working, and we are still going full steam ahead finding ways to keep our communities safe,” said Walz in a released statement. Whether it’s fishing, exploring our state parks, taking the family to a ball game or the Minnesota State Fair, we want to help get you there safely. So roll up your sleeves, make that vaccine appointment, and pick your reward, Minnesota — this is your shot to summer.”
The governor and DNR Commissioner Sara Strommen held a live news conference from Fort Snelling State Park Thursday afternoon to discuss the new incentive program, and why rewards that deal with Minnesota's great outdoors -like fishing licenses and park passes — are front and center.
Strommen talked about the huge uptick in people using state parks and recreational facilities since the beginning of the pandemic. "Minnesotans went outside, they went outside in really big numbers," the commissioner said. "They got away from their screens and went outside."
The commissioner hailed the health benefits of outdoor recreation, from reducing stress and anxiety to building a connection with the natural world. She also reminded Minnesotans to be "good natured" when visiting parks and recreational locations, noting that crowds are bigger and waits might be longer.
Here is a list of rewards those who get immunized can choose from.
Great Lakes Aquarium Pass
- Eligible for one entrance to the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth. Valid until July 1, 2023. The Minnesota Department of Health will provide recipients’ contact information to the Aquarium which will mail tickets to Minnesotans who select this option.
Mall of America Nickelodeon Universe Pass
- Eligible for a 30-point ride pass at Nickelodeon Universe that can be redeemed through September 1, 2021. The Minnesota Department of Health will provide recipients’ contact information to Mall of America who will send information to redeem the pass.
Minnesota Fishing License
- Eligible for one individual Minnesota resident annual fishing license effective through February 2022. Must be redeemed by July 30, 2021. Recipient must be eligible to hold a Minnesota fishing license. The Minnesota Department of Health will provide recipients’ contact information to the Department of Natural Resources which will reach out to Minnesotans to complete their fishing license application.
Minnesota State Parks Pass
- Eligible for one Minnesota State Parks annual pass. Minnesotans will receive the pass in the mail from the Department of Natural Resources. The Minnesota Department of Health will provide recipients’ contact information to the Department of Natural Resources which will mail the State Parks pass.
Minnesota Zoo Admission
- Eligible for one adult admission at the Minnesota Zoo through September 8. The Minnesota Department of Health will provide recipients’ contact information to the Minnesota Zoo which will email information in order for Minnesotans to redeem their admission.
Northwoods Baseball League Tickets
- Eligible for one reserved ticket to attend a Northwoods League baseball game during the 2021 season. The Minnesota Department of Health will provide recipients’ contact information to the Northwoods League and Minnesotans will call the ticket office of the team they select and provide their full name and address for verification to reserve their ticket. Tickets are based on availability at the time of calling. Participating teams include the Rochester Honkers, Willmar Stingers, Mankato MoonDogs, St. Cloud Rox and the Duluth Huskies.
State Fair Tickets
- Eligible for two admission tickets to the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. The Minnesota Department of Health will provide recipients’ contact information to the State Fair which will email tickets no later than July 16, 2021.
Valleyfair Single-Day Admission
- Valid for one Valleyfair admission ticket and the chance to purchase additional tickets for the same date at a discounted rate during the 2021 season. The Minnesota Department of Health will provide a unique code via email in order for Minnesotans to redeem this offer.
- Eligible for a $25 Visa Card to be used anywhere Visa is accepted. Minnesotans will receive the cards by mail or email from the Minnesota Department of Health or a State of Minnesota Vendor.
To be eligible for the "Your Shot at Summer" vaccination rewards program, Minnesotans age 12 and older must receive their first shot between May 27, 2021 and June 30, 2021. Beginning June 1, 2021, Minnesotans can verify that first dose and choose their preferred vaccine reward on a special state webpage.
Reward requests must be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Health by 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2021, and will be fulfilled on a rolling basis throughout the month of June 2021 and no later than July 16, 2021.
Last week, Dr. Beth Thielen, who specializes in Infectious Disease at the University of Minnesota Medical School, told KARE 11 that small incentives are common to help boost enrollment in medical studies. Other states have also offered vaccine incentives, including Ohio's "Vax-A-Million" lottery, which is offering any in-state resident who gets vaccinated a chance to win $1 million.
Minnesota Republican Party chair Jennifer Carnahan was critical of the governor's incentive plan.
“Instead of Governor Walz promoting efforts to entice people to get vaccinated with 'free gifts' using taxpayer money, Walz should be working to remove the excessive unemployment benefits, incentivizing people to stay home," Carnahan said in a statement. "With Minnesota's small businesses struggling to find employees and rebuild, Walz should be encouraging Minnesotans to rejoin the workforce to increase their own individual opportunity and economic opportunities."
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, as of Monday, 57.2% of eligible residents have completed their COVID shot series and are considered fully vaccinated (2,524,113 people), while 63.7% have received at least one dose (2,871,544 people).