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Officials Pledge To Address Sharing Of COVID Vaccine Codes

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - State leaders promised that they were revamping a coding system meant to increase vaccine equity, but that backfired and enabled people to skip the line.

It's no secret that black, brown and underserved communities are being vaccinated at a lower rate than white wealthier neighborhoods.

And the unique codes that were meant to increase vaccine equity?

Well, those are no secret either.

One man, who asked us not to reveal his identity, shared with us an access code generated by the state that was meant for community groups to get more people of color in hard hit communities vaccinated.

"I was texted this code from a friend of mine who received it from a coworker," he said. "The friend knew they weren't supposed to use the code, that it wasn't meant for them but it was a way to get access to the vaccine immediately."

Sure enough, CBSLA's Kristine Lazar was able to use the code to gain access to a vaccine appointment this morning, even though I don't yet qualify.

On Tuesday, state officials told Lazar, "After it was determined by the state that a code was being used by those beyond the intended audience, all the appointments enabled by the code were cancelled and the community group was issued a new code to use with its constituents."

And in a news conference the same day, Governor Newsom promised that the state was correcting the problem.

"The issue of abuse, in terms of people getting the codes. We are going to get away from group codes to individual codes and we are working on the counties with that," Newsom said.

So why are codes still working for those who want to jump the line? That's still unclear.

Jesika Miller has been trying unsuccessfully for weeks to get her 73-year-old father-in-law a vaccine. He suffers from dementia and has health issues.

"There are zero appointments," she said. "I am going 3 months out and there is not one day available. I know more people who are not eligible who have gotten shots than people who are eligible."

The man who sent us the code said he also knows of several people who have gotten a vaccine who do not yet qualify.

Lazar is awaiting comment from both the governor's office and the state department of public health.

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