People are skipping the COVID vaccine line for LA health workers

Vaccine distribution efforts in Los Angeles County reached a rocky spot this week as officials administering Moderna shots at pop-up locations allowed some people who were not health workers to skip the line and get immunized weeks or months before they were eligible.

A crowd of desperate people requesting early access to the vaccine caused longer lines and headaches for workers at four sites operated by the City of Los Angeles and provided doses exclusively to health care workers.

But at a vaccination site in South LA, a Times reporter watched about 100 people be admitted for immunization without providing evidence that they were working in the healthcare industry. One woman said she was vaccinated in the recreation area of ​​Hansen Dam in Pacoima, even when she told workers she was not a health worker.

On Tuesday, officials appeared to have closed this loophole, having to deal with a dose of the vaccine with a photo ID and documentation of work in the health sector.

Many of the rejected people were elderly, and some were at higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 because of their health condition.

“It was a big question,” he said. – It was difficult.

While the elderly and those with underlying health are expected to be among the first to be vaccinated, the exact timing of dosing is unclear. For some, this can take months.

At a vaccination site at the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, a Los Angeles Fire Department employee rejected half of the people in line because they had no proof of employment in the health care sector: photo ID and badge, pay stub, professional license or employer-signed letter a copy on the official stationery.

“There’s a gross amount of fraud there,” the employee told a scrub woman who had proof of being a health worker when he signed up for his appointment. “There are people who throw street tantrums because they don’t get in the way, and it’s worked out for them in the past.”

Public health officials began offering the vaccine to health workers at three COVID-19 test sites last week, and a fourth was added this week.

Text and e-mail quickly spread so that no one could check their health certificates in some places. Dozens of people showed up in urban locations in Pacoima, Lincoln Heights, South LA and San Fernando Recreation Park on Monday in hopes of getting an early dose of the vaccine.

Emails to healthcare workers have been forwarded several times between friends and family, so anyone who has received a registration link can register without having to prove their employment. A message shared with The Times contained a warning: “Please note that these links are NOT for distribution.

“Emails, family text groups … literally came,” Dang said.

It is not clear how many people who were not eligible for vaccination were able to obtain it. Those who jumped in line included a retired lawyer, a fashion worker and a real estate investor, Times reporters said.

A crowd of people in Lincoln Heights who were not eligible to receive the shot appeared at Monday morning, Dang said. This was not a problem during the first two days of operation of the site, he added.

Staff at the city’s four vaccination sites are being trained to ensure that patients are eligible for early immunization under local, state and federal guidelines, said Andrea Garcia, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti in Los Angeles. All patients are screened on a website run jointly by the county and the state, he said.

However, in an email, he said: “This is a new operation and we are working together to improve our process and address any issues that arise.”

At an Lincoln Heights clinic on Tuesday, an elderly man who did not give his name refused to leave after a worker rejected him. He told him several times that he had lung disease and his doctor confirmed the early vaccination with a signed note. More and more sad, he exclaimed, “You have to help me!”

“I want to get vaccinated today, but I can’t,” he told her. “I wish I could help.”

He finally left disappointed.

Security at the Crenshaw Christian Center was much looser on Monday. A Times reporter watched as a woman received the Moderna vaccine and about 100 people were shot for shots without being asked for a medical certificate.

The woman, who asked not to use her name and said that a single mother with two children working in the fashion industry, received an email that was originally repeatedly forwarded to a medical care company.

“The guys are using the link below and registering the ASAP for vaccination,” wrote one person forwarding the message. – I just got an appointment with my parents.

The woman said she was initially angry that people were reaping the benefits, but eventually decided the system would “free up appointment times” because cutting-edge workers didn’t show up because of their vaccinations.

“Once this became a real, tangible opportunity, I couldn’t take the opportunity to protect myself from serious illness,” he said. “As soon as I was in line, I felt guilty that it wasn’t my turn, but I’m also aware that if I don’t get this dose, someone else will be.”

He registered to be vaccinated on Monday at 2 p.m., and was seated at 3:45 p.m. on the same day. On the registration page, it was written that the vaccinations were for “HEALTHCARE STAFF ONLY”, but the woman said she was not asked to prove her occupation. Uploaded insurance information and the site says the insurance company should be billed directly. They were not asked to pay.

The vaccination site was in the corner of the spacious parking lot at the Crenshaw Christian Center. At 15:15, when the woman arrived, about 100 people stood in line in front of the parking lot, and about 100 more fell behind her. Many were elderly. The reporter did not observe any man before turning the woman away.

After an hour of waiting, the woman showed her driver’s license to confirm her appointment. He then entered one of the few open-sided canopies where nurses bearing the labels of a Curative employee who started COVID-19 testing gave vaccinations. A nurse told her that Moderna had been vaccinated and would receive an email about the schedule for the second dose. Then he got the shot.

In the middle of the tents was a large van decorated with the Curative logo on it, the back door open, and revealing stock. Next to him was an ambulance from a Los Angeles Fire Department, in which two paramedics were sitting filled with syringes vaccinated. A pile appeared with dozens of syringes on the hernia between them.

By the time the woman left, a man in a LAFD uniform was standing at the beginning of the line and demanding that people certify that they were health workers. He gave a circular notice of the vaccination effort, listing the acceptable types of certification for the profession. He started turning people around; of the 20 people observed, only a few were admitted.

At the Hansen Dam in Pacoima, a single line of cars snaked about a mile outside the scene while people waited for both testing and vaccinations.

Eleanor Mizrahi, 76, appeared on Tuesday after ordering a vaccine through the online public health portal. She said her daughter, a health worker, forwarded her an email with links to register. When Mizrahi registered, she was asked if she had worked in healthcare and clicked the “no” button, but she was still able to make an appointment.

“I thought, ‘Maybe they’re liberal about this.’ “I had a certain amount of shivering about my actions because I definitely don’t want to take anything from someone who needs it,” she said. “But my husband and I are both surviving cancer. We recently learned that my immune system is quite damaged.”

But when Mizrahi and her husband signed up for their meeting, the field worker rejected them because they were not eligible.

“We’re not angry and we’re not nervous,” she said. – I just think they need to redesign the website so they don’t let it go if you don’t choose the right level. This error was made. “

If Mizrahi had come a day earlier, he could have been successful. His friend, an 83-year-old retired lawyer who did not want to name himself, was vaccinated in the same place after logging in through the public health portal.

The girlfriend, who said she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said she was asked twice – once during online registration and then again in person at the scene – if she was a health worker, and said no on both occasions. He told me on the spot, he told the workers their age and condition, and they gave him the Moderna vaccine.

“I didn’t say anything that was untrue and I didn’t consider myself something that I wasn’t,” he said. “I was simply an old lady with a breathing disorder and they said, ‘Okay, we’ll shoot!’

Times fellow photographer Al Seib contributed to this report.