SOUTH LA, Calif. - Several out of town people are lining up outside of a clinic in South LA hoping to get a leftover COVID-19 vaccine. But these so-called ‘vaccine chasers’ are upsetting the local residents.
For weeks hundreds of people from nearby cities have been lining up outside of Kedren Community Health Center in South LA waiting to see if there are any unused vaccines.
However, community members say they should be prioritized over people coming from other cities.
"My problem with this is all of the vaccination chasers that are in our community that live West of La Cienega, coming here to take the vaccines that have been designated for this black and brown community in this district," said activist Veronica Sance, who was is eligible for a vaccine.
She has been lining up outside the facility every day for three days. She returned to the line Friday with signs urging the chasers to go home.
"They have taken advantage of this situation, they have taken advantage of this opportunity that is here for our community, "she added.
Sance and many of her neighbors ended up getting the coveted vaccine by the end of the day. Her friend and neighbor David Cunningham, who is running for LA City Council, joined her. He said many residents were not aware of this vaccination site.
"This vaccination site has been set up for weeks in our community and community members know nothing about it, and that is unacceptable," said South LA resident David Cunningham. "At the end of the day we all just want to get vaccinated, stay safe from COVID, and get back to normal."
Those who are eligible for a vaccine must fall under Tier 1A, which includes healthcare workers and people 65 years and older. The hospital has been following all proper guidelines and receiving a leftover vaccine is legal.
"Let’s say we have 500 appointments - if 100 of the persons who have appointments don’t show that day, then there’s extra vaccine leftover at the end of the day," explained Dr. Rahm Bailey, Medical Director of Kedren Hospital System and Assistant Dean of Clinical Education at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. "Rather than discarding it or tossing it - because you can’t save it overnight - that’s what allows some persons to receive extra vaccine."
Other sites like nursing homes also give their extra supply to Kedren, allowing additional people in the vaccine line to receive doses at the end of the day. Dr. Bailey and his team have been working long hours to accommodate people seeking the vaccine, and are following all federal, state, and local guidelines to do so.
He said people in Tier 1A living in South LA are the top priority now, but that many people who fall into those categories face unique challenges.
"It’s very clear that due to a variety of reasons, many people in our community struggle to get access - it’s hard to get transportation, it’s very difficult I think to find their way to the facility, those are all issues that often come into play," he said.
He said that the number of people in the standby line receiving vaccines varies from day to day - at times, no one gets a shot; other days, dozens and dozens are available.
"It’s just a remarkable a crapshoot," he said.
"Everyone is trying to ensure that every human being to get vaccinated so we can move forward get the herd immunity, and have a safe society."
A mobile vaccination site will soon be up and running to better serve the South LA community. For more info call 323-846-2651.