SOUTH LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Three hours after closing time on Friday, workers at Kedren Community Care Clinic in South Los Angeles were still working — giving out extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to anyone who walked in.
"I refuse to let any drop go to waste," Dr. Jerry Abraham, family physician and epidemiologist for Kedren Health, said.
The clinic has become a model of the success, and the mess, of vaccine distribution in Southern California.
Each day, hundreds of people with appointments get their shots, and hundreds more without reservations line up hoping to get any leftovers at the end of the day.
Most days, there are not any extras to give out, but on Friday it was a bonanza after several local nursing homes suddenly offered 600 extra doses just hours before closing time.
"Right now, I will not let this expiring vaccine go to waste, is that clear," Abraham said. "I'm offering you a vaccine, an expiring dose of Moderna today, is that OK?"
And with that, Abraham's team got to work prioritizing seniors and healthcare workers, then residents from South Los Angeles, cutting through the formalities and the red tape of the county system to get vaccines into arms.
"Grandmas and grandpas, non-English speakers, how are you supposed to use that complicated website," Abraham said. "How are you supposed to, if you don't have a cell phone or an email address, register? It's difficult to get an appointment."
But it's not only the elderly getting in, there are a number of younger or otherwise not on the vaccine priority list who spend hours in line, even waiting overnight, for the chance at a shot. The hopeful masses come from all over the county and not everyone is OK with these so-called vaccine chasers.
"My commitment, as you know is nothing's gonna go to waste here at Kedren, so if that means someone in this line gets one who's not in those priority groups, so be it, I can sleep at night with that decision," Abraham said. "I won't be able to sleep if I know I dropped vaccine into the ground or disposed of it."
One woman from West Los Angeles waiting at the clinic all day in the rain.
"These are for the leftovers, for vaccines that will be thrown out otherwise, so I don't see how that is exploiting the system," she said.
In fact, some waiting for the additional doses said the shame would be in letting the vaccines go to waste.
John La and his wife, who live in San Gabriel, spent three days outside the clinic trying to get vaccinated and praised the process — flawed as it may be.
"I wish we had more people like him you know pushing all these vaccinations," he said. "Trust me, what he's doing is a God send, he's saving lives, you know?"
Abraham said he does not encourage people to campout waiting for extra doses, and is actually working on a plan to get the surplus doses to the underserved. But, as was evident Friday, there was a long way to go to beat the chaos of the current system.
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