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Vaccine Line Jumpers Heading Out To Hard-Hit Communities, Improperly Using Access Codes To Get Vaccinated Faster

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- Shortly after officials in Los Angeles County planned an effort to get vaccines out to people in underserved communities, the system is being abused.

Currently, vaccines are being distributed to people 65 and older and health care workers, and many people of color and low-income communities in hard-hit areas are not getting access.

Some people outside of specifically targeted communities for vaccine outreach have been obtaining access codes for vaccination clinics in those neighborhoods.

They were able to essentially jump the line, drawing judgment from L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who called the behavior "disgusting."

"I am not surprised. I'm disgusted,'' Solis said during a Board of Supervisors discussion of the COVID vaccination effort. "And I'm not disgusted at the work that we're doing, but I'm more disgusted about the behavior of people in the public that are not being responsible."

"People don't usually go in and visit from outside communities like Beverly Hills or the westside or other parts of the county," Solis said. "But on this occasion, I happened to see people that I know don't live and reside there. This particular pod was set up for 250 individuals particularly addressing the needs of seniors 65 and older. The majority of the folks who live in that complex -- there are well over 600 -- the majority of them live in poverty. They happen to be Latinx, some Asian, some African-American. I can tell you off the bat I was very alarmed to hear individuals had gained access from the code, the code that is just given I think a day or even hours before the actual pod is set up, and somehow they were able to get in line ahead of the people this was intended for."

RELATED: Garcetti Announces New COVID-19 Mobile Vaccine Initiative To Target Hard-Hit Communities Of Color

L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer also commented on the issue, calling it partially a failure of the state's MyTurn vaccination-appointment system.

The online system allows eligible residents to schedule when they can receive their shots, but specific group access codes were given to set up closed vaccination clinics.

"The code is like a way to bypass what really is at this point a failure of MyTurn,'' Ferrer said. "Ideally you have an appointment system that is set up that allows you to use that appointment system for what we would call a closed registration, so you could create a clinic, for example, and just have the people you want to make appointments at that clinic, whatever site it is. ... Right now MyTurn doesn't allow anybody to do that, but we all are required to use MyTurn.''

Those codes were circulated online and communities with better access to the internet and computers got hold of it and came out to the closed vaccination clinics to get their COVID-19 vaccine ahead of time.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning in Sacramento, Gov. Gavin Newsom commented on the issue of "abuse in terms of people getting the codes'' and said officials are working on a fix by moving "away from group codes to individual codes" instead.

The issue with people jumping the line comes at a time that L.A. County is working to address vaccine equity.

According to figures released by the county last week, Black residents represented 5.2% of all people who had received at least
one dose of the vaccine as of mid-February, while 33.5% were white, 23.1% Latinx and 19.1% Asian.

Only 24% of Black residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 42.8% of white residents 65 and up.

Ferrer said the county will keep working to develop better ways to reach the communities hard-hit by the pandemic and those least able to get vaccinated.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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