MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota officials say more than 300,000 residents are using a new tool to help connect them to the COVID-19 vaccine. But some tell WCCO the steps to sign up caught them off guard.

The process includes questions about race, gender identity and even sexual orientation. WCCO found out why the state is asking those questions, and what it plans to do with your answers.

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Minneapolis resident Nadia Hoffman and her family likes to explore.

“We like to travel, and my family is also overseas, so I like to be able to travel to see my family,” Hoffman said.

Her parents are in Thailand. COVID has kept them apart, but she’s hoping the vaccine will allow them to get together again. So, she signed up for the state’s Vaccine Connector Program, but quickly found herself perplexed.

(credit: CBS)

“The questions itself, it’s not really about my health. We have like four questions about race, about sexual orientations, about things … that kind of made me question why do they need to know?” she said.

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She wasn’t the only WCCO viewer concerned about these personal questions, so we asked the Minnesota Department of Health. In a statement, a spokesperson said, “We are gathering demographic data so we can target vaccine messages to specific groups that have been traditionally underserved. Questions about race, gender identity and sexual orientation will help us track and measure our goals for equity and fairness.”

MDH lets you opt out of some questions. Hoffman reluctantly answered them because she has places to go.

“I want to give my parents a hug [laughs]!” she said.

MDH says the data will be protected, but can be seen by state and local health officials and anyone having to do with the vaccination process.

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The data collected cannot be sold under state law. MDH says people won’t be prioritized based on their answers to personal questions. They are just trying to make it a fair process for everyone.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield