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How to prove your underlying condition to get a COVID-19 vaccine and answers to other top questions

"What you’re experiencing is the natural confusion when you’re trying to do big things quickly," said M Health Fairview Dr. Tim Schacker.

Minnesota is in the middle of vaccinating the latest group of eligible people, including those with underlying medical conditions. One of the most common questions we get is - how do you prove if you have one?

We turned to the experts like M Health Fairview infectious disease physician Dr. Tim Schacker who answered that top question first.  

"If you are going through your health care system, your records will be there," said Dr. Schacker. "I know some health care systems are extending an invitation for a vaccination based on a review of the electronic medical record, so if there's a certain diagnostic code that corresponds with one of the important pre-existing conditions you're automatically put on that list."

The Minnesota Department of Health expects a majority of those vaccinations will be done within the healthcare system versus the state's mass vaccination clinics. 

"So those providers will be reaching out to their patients and getting them in for vaccination," said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm. 

Some of the state's conditions were adapted from conditions determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and include: 

• Active cancer • Chronic kidney disease •  COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) •  Down Syndrome •  Heart conditions (heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies) •  Immunocompromised (HIV, bone marrow, chronic steroids for more than 30 days, immunodeficiency disease, or taking immunosuppressive medications) •  Obesity - body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m2 •  Pregnancy •  Sickle cell disease •  Type 1 or 2 diabetes

Another eligible group is people 50 and older in multi-generational housing. But what does that mean exactly?

For that we reached out to the Department of Health which defines it as three or more generations living together.

"Such as an elder, a parent and a grandchild," said MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann. "So it doesn't include a parent or guardian caring for a child."

And remember, there's still not enough vaccine to meet demand. MDH says its priority is to never waste it. But some viewers wondered if there is extra, can pharmacies can distribute it however they want?

"All I've heard are the stories that if there's vaccine leftover they will go find people and put it in their arms and I think that's the appropriate thing to do," said Dr. Schacker.

Another viewer asked if they should be getting other vaccines right now - in their case it was for Shingles, but the doctor's answer was across the board. 

"My advice is COVID is the pressing, urgent issue," said Dr. Schacker. "I would get the COVID vaccine, let the dust settle and then get your other vaccinations."

He's also says we're in a race against the variants and wants people to keep following public health guidelines so there isn't a setback in the progress made against COVID.

"The reality is there are variants, you know mutations to the virus that make it more infectious, and the data suggests it might make it more virulent," said Dr. Schacker. That means people would get more sick.

"We’re working as hard as we can to keep things as normal as possible and we might have to backtrack a little bit to contain this until we can get enough people vaccinated," said Dr. Schacker. 

He's encouraging people to also continue wearing masks, practice physical distancing and stay home if you're sick.

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