Minnesotans are getting vaccinated in drugstores, shopping malls, even storage facilities

Erica Pearson, Star Tribune
·6 min read

To get his COVID-19 vaccination, Dillon Herman entered a place he thought he never would — the Minnesota Vikings TCO Performance Center.

"It's quite the facility but, boy, was I uncomfortable — being a Packers fan living in Minnesota," said Herman, who lives in St. Paul.

As the pace of shots continues to ramp up in Minnesota and locations from a shuttered Target store to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds become vaccination sites, we asked readers to share their own shot stories.

Along with gratitude for health care workers and frustration about the patience and privilege often required to score an appointment, you told us about epic drives, meaningful moments and a shared feeling of hope.

Road tripsFor their appointments at a Hy-Vee store in Owatonna, Minn., Ryan Bentley and his wife, Katie, drove for an hour from northeast Minneapolis, through "three tornado warnings, torrential rain and crazy hail in order to reach the appointment on time," he said.

Still, "it was definitely worth it," he said. "The feeling of knowing that I was on the way to full vaccination is impossible to describe."

• • •

Unsure when appointments near his St. Paul home would open up, Nathan Zacharias and his fiancée decided to book shots at a drive-through clinic in Barnum, Minn. As they reached the end of their nearly two-hour drive, they saw a digital sign on the side of the road saying "Health Event Ahead."

They got their shots inside a Carlton County highway department building, alongside "graders, dump trucks, and plows," Zacharias said. "It was a strange place to get a vaccine, but I cannot commend Carlton County enough. They made it so easy. An immense wave of relief washed over me on our drive home."

• • •

The appointment that Guillermo Narváez of St. Paul found for his daughter was a three-hour drive away. "We drove to Worthington, in our electric car. There were no charging stations nearby, so it was a bit of an odyssey," he said.

• • •

Casey Jones had driven through Fergus Falls, Minn., previously on the way to Fargo from Minneapolis, but never stopped. So when he scheduled a vaccine appointment at a Walmart there, he posted on Twitter asking for recommendations on what to see in the area. That's how he ended up taking photos of the giant Otto the Otter in the town's Grotto Park.

"I couldn't not go," he said. "Worth the stop for the otter. I love roadside attractions."

• • •

Sarah Landt of Minnetonka sent her family's vaccine tale in poem form:

"I got mine with educators at Xcel,

My husband got his through a local nonprofit,

My 19-year-old drove to Fargo to get his,

My 18-year-old drove to Rochester to get hers,

My 16-year-old is going to Duluth for his this week.

Anyone want to vaccinate my 13-year-old?"

Familiar spotsFor his vaccine, Russ Edwards-Simpson of Plymouth was able to go to the place he calls his "preferred hospital for saving my life" — Methodist Hospital, where he was successfully treated for throat cancer. "Seemed like the right place as it's been eight years with no relapse," he said. "They are always kind."

• • •

Amy O'Brien got her first shot in her cousin's dining room. "She is doing injections for Hennepin County and if she had any leftover doses, she could give [them] to family or friends," said O'Brien, who is from Minnetonka. "I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork, just like going to a regular medical clinic."

• • •

Brian Allen got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a high school gym just down the street from where he lives in St. Paul, he said. "It went surprisingly smoothly," he said. He made the appointment after a neighbor posted details from a Ramsey County newsletter on Facebook. "It was mostly just luck," he said. "Even though I'm one of the lucky ones who has been vaccinated already, I'm still frustrated with the extremely confusing system (or lack thereof). I hope my wife can find an appointment soon, and I don't even know how she might go about doing that."

• • •

The Mall of America's community vaccination site was where Blair Foy got her shots. As a single mom with a heart condition, she had been on edge since last spring.

"What I remember after the first dose was a wave of security, knowing that my core responsibilities of raising my sons each day were more protected as soon as that Band-Aid was stuck on my arm," said Foy, who lives in Golden Valley.

• • •

Jennifer Anderson got her shot at a Walgreens in Excelsior. "I'd admittedly never been in that store, but it will always have a place in my heart," said Anderson, who lives in Chanhassen. "It was only 10 minutes from my house, and I was the only person there getting a shot, so I didn't even have to wait in line."

• • •

Rick Ryan was vaccinated in a closed, empty Target store in what would have been the checkout area, he said. The Brooklyn Center clinic was set up by North Memorial Health Hospital. "It was very efficient and took just a few minutes from the time I walked in," said Ryan, who lives in Minneapolis.

New connectionsWhile getting vaccinated at Bloomington Civic Plaza, Will Wlizlo struck up "fantastic" conversations with the firefighters who gave him his shots, he said.

"Turns out, yakking about books made the shots entirely painless," said Wlizlo, who lives car-free in Minneapolis and had to borrow a vehicle to get to his appointments. He brought a copy of "The Golden Compass" to his first appointment and "Cloudstreet" to his second to read while waiting the recommended 15 minutes after each shot. The books gave him plenty to chat about.

• • •

When she got her shot at a Walgreens near her St. Paul house, Susan Koefod took a selfie with the pharmacist. "I planned to do a photo and wore a T-shirt designed by an artist I know," she said. It reads, "Let Justice Grow."

"I knew I wanted to memorialize the time of my shot, and the ongoing trial — as the [Chauvin] trial is also inextricably tied with the COVID era," she said.

• • •

When Julie Swenson visited a Cub Foods in Monticello, Minn., for her vaccinations, it was the first time she'd been inside a grocery store for a year.

Swenson, who lives in Edina and avoided in-person shopping being high-risk for COVID, said she felt "like a ghost" walking into a store after so long.

"A dark and heavy cloud is being lifted," she said. "I now love Cub."

Erica Pearson • 612-673-4726