Like a SARS-CoV-2 virus spreading from person to person, an email invite from Monterey County officials for the vaccine against the disease it causes, Covid-19, was forwarded to an unknown number of people over the past week who never should have received it. The intended invitees were all health care workers authorized to receive the vaccine under Phase 1a of the state’s system for the vaccination rollout. The message that came with the original invitation specifying the vaccines were for health care workers only mutated into a rumor that there were extra doses about to go to waste so anyone could sign up.
“They thought they were doing a great thing, using up vaccine before it was wasted. Unfortunately, it filled up all the spots for the health care workers,” says Kristy Michie, the epidemiologist for the Monterey County Health Department.
The result was a flood of people signing up on a state website for Covid-19 vaccination appointments at a CSUMB parking lot and Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula scheduled Monday, Jan. 11 through Friday, Jan. 15. The situation prompted the Health Department to send out a press release asking residents to “help get our critical health care workforce vaccinated against Covid-19.” The department posted on social media dispelling the “extra vaccine” rumors.
After hospitals began vaccinating their employees with great fanfare beginning Dec. 17, the county without any general announcement began vaccinating other health care workers on Jan. 2, including firefighters and paramedics. A wider range of health care workers in Phase 1a were invited to clinics, but it appears there was no mechanism to limit who was able to access the appointment system.
After appointments booked up and officials learned that not just health care workers had registered, the county contacted participants and asked them to cancel appointments if they were not in health care. Many did, Michie says.
No one on Monday was turned away nor asked for proof they were eligible, but beginning on day two, officials were asking people to bring a pay stub or other identification to prove where they work.
The county scheduled a town hall meeting via Zoom from 5:30-6:30pm on Thursday, Jan. 14. Attend at bit.ly/mocovaccinetownhall, using the passcode 714157. Participants are encouraged to email questions in advance to email@example.com.
The Health Department also created a Covid-19 vaccine information page, bit.ly/mococovidvaccinepage.