San Francisco

‘Hunger Games of Vaccines': People Jump the Line to Get Vaccine Prior to Eligibility

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Unfair and entitled – that’s how many are describing people who jump the line and get the vaccine before they’re eligible.   

Many know at least one person who exaggerated their health condition or had their boss classify them as a frontline worker in order to jump the line -- experts calling the hyper-competitive behavior the “hunger games for vaccines.”

Karla Salazar, childcare workers in San Francisco, describes the lengths some people are going to to get the COVID-19 vaccine as “crazy,” including lying about being an essential worker.

“They say, ‘oh I work as a nurse’ and they take the badges from friends,” she said.

On Monday, millions more Californians with serious underlying health conditions and disabilities became eligible for the vaccine. 

Unfair and entitled – that’s how many are describing people who jump the line and get the vaccine before they’re eligible. Lili Tan reports.

San Francisco went a step further including the homeless, inmates, and others in high-risk congregate settings. 

But as the vaccine opens to more people, so does the opportunity for more line jumping and vaccine cheating. 

“It’s a competition, and it shouldn’t be,” said UCSF Epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford. “I think people have to have larger society goals in mind which is to stop transmission.”

He says taking an appointment away from someone who lives in a high-transmission area makes the pandemic harder to fight. 

“We don’t want the hunger games for vaccines,” Rutherford said. “There’s a logic to this, and please wait your turn.”

Some agree. 

“That’s just not fair,” said Soon Tani Beccaria Mochizuki of San Francisco. “People who genuinely need the vaccine deserve it first.”

While others say vaccinating anyone will help us get to herd immunity.

“You know what? The more people who get vaccinated, that’s the most important thing,” said Shawn Gupta of San Francisco. “Better for all of us, so let’s just get it done.”

The city of San Francisco requires everyone to check a box and sign their name swearing they’re eligible to get the vaccine, but some say purely relying on people’s honesty makes it too easy to cheat the system.

Below is more information from the San Francisco COVID Command Center

We have advised all San Francisco vaccination providers with the below guidelines regarding verification of eligibility:

  • Use reasonable processes to verify that persons presenting for vaccination meet eligibility criteria, while avoiding overly burdensome documentation requirements that create barriers to vaccination. 
  • Workers in different job sectors differ in the documentation available that could verify their job status. Providers may adopt methods that include but are not limited to checking work identification badges, pay stubs, or letters from employers, recognizing that in some circumstances it may be more feasible as well as more equitable to rely instead on obtaining the vaccine’s signed attestation of their workforce sector. 
  • Ultimately it is up to the vaccinating entity to decide on the appropriate process for verifying eligibility, however vaccinating sites that are serving populations and communities that are disproportionately affected by COVID19 should ensure that access to vaccines is low-barrier. 
  • This communication will be updated should additional guidance on eligibility verification be published by CDPH.
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