California’s Vaccine Fairness Program Will Change After Code Misuse

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that California would make changes to a program designed to address inequalities in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, after a Times report uncovered evidence that outsiders were misusing the program to Get appointments reserved for neighborhood residents. those most affected by the pandemic.

“We don’t like to see these abuses,” Newsom told a news conference in Sacramento.

The program to improve access to vaccines in communities of color is based on special codes that allow people to schedule appointments on the My Turn vaccine scheduling website. The codes are provided to community organizations for distribution to people from predominantly Black and Latino communities.

But those codes have also been circulating, in text messages and group messages, among the wealthiest, who work from home in Los Angeles and are not yet eligible for the vaccine under state rules. Many of them were under 65 years old.

Newsom did not provide details on the changes that would be made to the program, but said the state would “move away” from the group code system.

The governor said the codes were also misused during a mobile vaccination clinic held Saturday at the Ramona Gardens public housing development in Boyle Heights, where Newsom and other elected leaders attended.

Newsom said it was “pretty clear from that public housing site that not everyone was from that community.” Subsequently, the state found that a group code used for dating had been shared more widely, allowing people outside the community to successfully date.

“We are working on those things and we are correcting them,” Newsom said.

Earlier last week, California opened two new mass vaccination sites with the Biden-Harris administration, with one site at Cal State Los Angeles and the other at Oakland Coliseum. The sites were intended to help vaccinate people in two of the worst affected communities as part of a state-federal partnership, the first in the nation, geared toward a more equitable vaccination process. Those sites were also combined with mobile vaccination units aimed at bringing vaccines directly to communities or workplaces that might otherwise have difficulty accessing them.

As part of that approach, the state reserved citation blocks on both sites specifically for those most affected. Special access codes were given to local organizations, who were then asked to distribute those codes to community members to make their appointments. As The Times learned, those codes were widely circulated in the wider Los Angeles community, allowing quite a few people who would not otherwise have been eligible to get vaccinated on the Cal State LA site.

Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said he had no immediate details on what the new vaccine registration system will look like.

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