California officials explain how COVID-19 vaccine codes were shared, misused

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Thursday, February 25, 2021
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California's My Turn system is meant to improve vaccine availability in underserved communities, but in some instances, codes used to book an appointment ended up being used by people who are not yet eligible.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- People jumping the line to get a COVID-19 vaccine are hindering efforts to address health inequities. For example, the state's My Turn website allows one to enter an access code to schedule a vaccine appointment.

The codes were meant for communities hardest hit. But, in some instances, they ended up being shared and used by people who are not yet eligible, according to reporting by the Los Angeles Times.

A spokesperson for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services told Eyewitness News in a statement that reads in part:

"... A nonprofit we were working with shared it with the community it serves, and a member of that community shared it more widely. After it was determined by the state that the code was being used by those beyond the intended audience, all the appointments enabled by the code were cancelled, and the nonprofit was issued a new code to use with its constituents..."

RELATED: COVID vaccine eligibility codes improperly used in LA

"They were misused at some of our partner sites, and the site that's run by the federal government in East L.A.," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of L.A. County's Public Health Department.

L.A. County health officials say none of the sites run by the county use the codes.

"I do think the fix for the problem is having the My Turn system actually allow us to be able to reserve appointments for people who live in the hardest hit communities. Something that you cannot do right now, but that the state has pledged to fix," said Ferrer.

"The codes are tough. We've heard stories and people from affluent neighborhoods getting a handle of the codes and driving over to other areas. This happened in New York as well," said Felipe Osorno, executive administrator of continuum of care operations at Keck Medicine of USC.

Keck Medicine is one of the organizations the county has partnered with, alongside community groups.

"We have partnered with community organizations in East L.A. and South L.A., which are very vulnerable populations. And we've partnered with churches, community organizations, community centers to do more direct outreach," said Osorno.

For now, Keck - which has helped administer about 30,000 doses - is not using the My Turn website for now but is expected to in the future.

"We're just trying to work closely with the community. Again, it's not perfect but we feel we've kept it pretty tight so far," said Osorno.

CAL OES will continue to monitor the appointments made through community groups on the My Turn website to ensure the intended and impacted community is reached, a spokesperson said.