COVID-19 vaccine codes for hard-hit communities misused in rich areas


Wealthy Californians have reportedly been getting their hands on vaccine access codes intended for residents of poor neighborhoods — helping them snag appointments for the coveted jabs.

The special-access codes were provided to community organizers to distribute as part of a program to address vaccine inequality in black and Latino areas hard-hit by the virus, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Codes are meant for residents of those neighborhoods who are eligible for the vaccine under current state criteria, but might struggle to make an appointment,

But they’re being shared in group texts by people who the codes weren’t meant for — wealthier Californians with the ability to work from home, the newspaper reported.

Many of the people who have been able to obtain the code are not currently eligible for the vaccine, the outlet reported.

And some of them have been able to arrange appointments at two mass vaccination sites, Cal State Los Angeles and the Oakland Coliseum, the newspaper reported.

It’s unclear how the misuse of the codes began.

Dimitri Anthes, 32, of Oakland said he was contacted by a friend who claimed that shots were at risk of expiring and anyone could use the codes to schedule an appointment, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“I had no intention of skipping the line or taking a vaccine before others in need. I thought I was taking a dose that would otherwise expire,” Anthes, who describes himself as a healthy, white man, told the outlet.

He said he made an appointment for himself then sent the code to about a dozen friends.

“I feel like a privileged a–hole who gamed the system and then spread misinformation. I didn’t know what I was doing,” he told the Chronicle.

The special-access codes were provided to community organizers to distribute as part of a program to address vaccine inequality.
The special-access codes were provided to community organizers to distribute as part of a program to address vaccine inequality.
Al Seib/Shutterstock

Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Services, said officials have canceled appointments with one code that appears to have been widely disseminated, the outlet reported.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday also acknowledged that there had been misuse and they’re looking to change the system to use individual codes instead.

“We don’t like to see those abuses,” he told reporters. “So we’re working through those things and we’re correcting for those.”

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