covid-19 vaccine

‘Vaccine Chasers' Line Up For Leftover Vaccines

“I’m not taking a vaccine from anyone. It’s extra that’s left over.”

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Some will call themselves "vaccine chasers," others "dumpster dose divers."

These are the people who are lining up at COVID-19 vaccine sites for hours in the hopes of getting access to leftover vaccines that could otherwise end up in the trash.

“This is the people that have a chance to get in," Bruce Laffey says from near the front of the standby line. "I’ve been here since 530 a.m., I’m seventh in line."

Laffey said this was the second time he tried to get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. He doesn’t fall into Los Angeles County’s current priority list – just like most everyone else in line Wednesday at the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino.

“I’m not taking a vaccine from anyone," Laffey says. "It’s extra that’s left over.”

A homemade posted sign shows where the unofficial line starts for those without an appointment.

“Just to have a chance at the vaccine, it would be life changing,” says Leah Robson, a 27-year-old who works in the film industry.

Robson says she doesn't mind the wait – even if at day’s end, she goes home without it.

“I’m glad they're prioritizing older people but if there’s a chance I can get it, it’s totally worth staying in line for all day,” Robson says.

About 1,200 doses were being administered in Encino Wednesday, and those administering the shots say they average about 20 people per week who will get a leftover dose.

Mayor Eric Garcetti saying city sites try not to have any left overs, but LA County Public Health says they average a 10% no-show statistic.

“I heard you had to line up early in the there at 4:30 and I was no. 2 in line,” says Dennis Kwan describing how he got a vaccine dose.

It took Kwan two tries after hearing about the lines at Balboa Park on social media. He says it took multiple attempts.

“I knew it was going to be a mess and in high demand,” Kwan said.

“They make sure to go through the line to get people who have the priority," he added. "We’re just the lucky ones who are there when no other 65 or older want them.”

“I put in the work,” Kwan said when asked if he felt he jumped the line.

After his second attempt – and a good 16 combined hours – he got his first dose with promise of a second in 28 days.

Some people in groups that are not currently prioritized are waiting in long lines hoping for leftover vaccines. Hetty Chang reported on NBC4 News on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.

"I felt very lucky," Kwan said.

LA County Public Health says it doesn’t advise people to show up to sites and expect to get any leftovers. But those at the site Wednesday say it might be worth a shot.

LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis, issued a statement on Thursday saying:

“I understand that we are all anxious to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because it brings a sense of relief, security and hope. However, I urge residents to not chase or cut to the front of the line to get immunized, and instead wait their turn so that those currently eligible and most at risk can get the vaccine. Frontline healthcare workers, residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities, and people 65 years of age and older have been severely impacted by this virus – and that is why we’re working swiftly to administer the vaccine to these groups. For now, we must focus on the people most at risk of death if they get COVID-19, and we will have enough vaccines for everyone in the coming months.”

Update: This story has been updated to add Solis' statement.

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