Vaccine Line Jumpers Heading Out To Hard-Hit Communities, Improperly Using Access Codes To Get Vaccinated Faster

Shortly after officials in Los Angeles County planned an effort to get vaccines out to people in underserved communities, the system is being abused. Kristine Lazar reports.

Video Transcript

- Vaccine codes are apparently being stolen so that those not eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine get to cut the line. Those codes are meant to help underserved communities. CBS 2 Consumer Investigator Kristine Lazar takes a closer look.

KRISTINE LAZAR: This is the sign Liz Schwandt put on her Lincoln Heights home offering to help her elderly neighbors get a vaccine appointment.

LIZ SCHWANDT: We look at those maps of LA. And the maps of places that have been hardest hit by COVID are the ones that are having the lowest rates of vaccination.

KRISTINE LAZAR: Liz helped start a website and Facebook page called Get Out the Shot Los Angeles, recruiting volunteers to help secure vaccine appointments for the people who need it most. Last week, Liz noticed that some people started sharing special codes in her group to secure appointments through the state's website My Turn. One of the codes that was shared with me came with the note, "Pfizer is doing a trial to see if people would get the vaccine if there wasn't a tiered system. So don't feel like you're stealing an appointment from someone."

LIZ SCHWANDT: To, you know, think that they would have a-- they would need a special pilot program from a bunch of wealthy Angelenos is ridiculous.

KRISTINE LAZAR: State officials say the codes were actually meant for local community organizations to increase equity by getting more vaccines into communities of color. Chair Hilda Solis addressed the issue at today's Board of Supervisors meeting.

HILDA SOLIS: Well, folks, this is much more than jumping the line. This means that our community is being pushed out.

KRISTINE LAZAR: Dr. Ilan Shapiro works at Altamed Health Services in Boyle Heights. He's been vaccinating mostly minority and mostly poor residents in East LA.

ILAN SHAPIRO: At this moment, the one most of-- the things that we're seeing is that communities are suffering the most are not getting the vaccines that can actually change their lives and, most importantly, can save their lives.

KRISTINE LAZAR: Vickie Mays is a professor of Health Policy and Management at UCLA.

VICKIE MAYS: The use that you're seeing of the codes they follow, what I would say, is human behavior. And we should have thought about that. First of all, we have a scarcity of the vaccine. People have no idea when they're going to be able to get vaccinated. So they're running scared. And once these codes were out, they decided to use them.

KRISTINE LAZAR: State officials tell me they're now working on canceling compromised codes and appointments made improperly. I provided them with two codes that worked for me yesterday. But when I tried them this morning, they were no longer good. Kristine Lazar, CBS 2 News.