Vaccine access codes for Black community improperly used by wealthy LA residents

Ineligible people were able to get appointments, then COVID-19 vaccines, at Cal State Los Angeles.

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In California, like many parts of the country, people of color have been vaccinated against coronavirus at much lower rates than their white counterparts. In order to counteract this, the state created a program specifically for the underserved to gain access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

But now, wealthier Californians are gaming the system.

A program in California aimed at improving the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations in communities of color is reportedly being used improperly. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

The program functions by creating access codes for the My Turn website, where one must make an appointment in order to get vaccinated. The codes were given to more than 2,000 organizations committed to helping those in Black and Latino communities get vaccinated via appointments at the Oakland Coliseum and at Cal State Los Angeles. The individuals receiving the codes must still be vaccine eligible. 

According to The Los Angeles Times, the access codes leaked improperly and were shared in the group chats of wealthy residents in Los Angeles, and ineligible people were able to get appointments, then subsequent COVID-19 shots, at Cal State L.A. 

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California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, has long said he would prioritize the vaccination of Black and Latino residents due to the disproportionate number of cases and deaths in those communities. Thousands of organizations targeting the vulnerable were contacted to participate in the state’s program, a plan meant be the manifestation of those promises. 

Now, the state has been forced to cancel vaccine appointments made with at least one of the leaked access codes, The Times revealed.

Details about how the My Turn codes leaked were not readily available, but multiple sources told The Times they received information about a pilot program for which anyone was able to sign up. One source received a text from a friend that read: “Apparently it’s a new testing site that is ‘testing out their system’ for a few days before they open up appointments for the elderly and sick, etc. Anyone can sign up if there are appointments available. Give it a try!”

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Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said the program is continuing and that codes may have been shared in a well-intended way before eventually getting out to the public at large.

“In order to solve for that, we’ve taken steps to ensure we’re auditing, monitoring how the codes are used very carefully,” he said.

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