‘Vaccine chasers’ are camping out in hopes of getting ‘leftover’ shots

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Large crowds of Angelenos are lining up at COVID-19 vaccination sites before dawn, hoping they’ll score leftover vaccines. 

Not-yet-vaccine-eligible residents and seniors have been flocking en masse to inoculation locations in the wee hours, forming long lines and camping out to get a shot at their first dose of the coveted Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. 

More and more, stories of leftover vaccines being administered to bystanders are giving hope to those who aren’t yet eligible for the shots. Health care workers are increasingly faced with the decision of whether to toss out unused vaccine doses or give them to the nearest warm body.

“The moral question of getting it before somebody else was outweighed by the fact that there are doses being wasted,” a 28-year-old designer named Jasmine told the Los Angeles Times as she waited outside a South LA clinic Friday morning.

Most of the “vaccine chasers,” lined up down the clinic’s block were from whiter, higher-income neighborhoods than South LA, one woman told the publication, adding that they’d mostly heard they may be able to score a spare dose by word of mouth. 

“There are people who are so much more deserving than we are, and we just happened to find out,” said 23-year-old social media worker Brianna Bane on Thursday afternoon, minutes before she was summoned from the standby line at South LA’s Kedren Community Health Center and into the vaccination tent. 

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health told the outlet that there are no official standby lines, and that it “does not advise residents to show up at vaccination sites in the hopes of receiving a leftover vaccine at the end of day.”

Nevertheless, it’s working for a small few: Less than 30 people a day are vaccinated through these informal lines, officials estimated, adding that there’s a less than 10 percent no-show rate countrywide for those with valid vaccination appointments. 

Vaccine site administrators say that in the instances where there are no shows or expiring doses, they’ll prioritize getting shots in arms over bowing to bureaucracy. 

“We’re not going to let documentation or technology stop us from vaccinating,” said Dr. Jerry P. Abraham, director of Kedren’s vaccine operation. “And there are times when your inventory has to be either put into someone’s arm or discarded, and we refuse to waste a dose.”

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