According to a report for the Los Angeles Times, these young, mostly white “vaccine chasers” form unofficial lines outside of local clinics and community centers to receive a dose of the dwindling Pfizer or Moderna supply.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health does not have any sort of official “standby” process for vaccine distribution and "does not advise residents to show up at vaccination sites in the hopes of receiving a leftover vaccine at the end of day." However, it did acknowledge that some people are being given doses that would otherwise be wasted.
Some of the people in these lines include seniors who qualified but weren’t able to get an appointment, but most are neither healthcare workers or above the age of 65. The Times reports that some clinics are seeing as many as 40 vaccinations in a day go to young, low-risk residents.
"The moral question of getting it before somebody else was outweighed by the fact that there are doses being wasted," a 28-year-old designer told the news outlet.
Both vaccines come in multi-dose vials. The Kedren Community Health Center, where “vaccine chasers” have been able to secure doses, administers the Moderna vaccine which expires after six hours.
“There are times when we have no one here,” Dr. Jerry P. Abraham, who runs the center, told the Times. “And there are times when your inventory has to be either put into someone's arm or discarded, and we refuse to waste a dose.”
The extra doses sometimes become available when people with appointments don’t show up. As the Times reports, many of these “vaccine chasers” hail from wealthier parts of the city and descend on vaccine distributions in low-income communities.
People find out about these unofficial standy lines mostly through word of mouth and rumors. The new CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky recently revealed that due to low supply, the vaccine won't be widely available to the general public for several months.