‘It’s like buying Bruce Springsteen tickets’: the quest to find a vaccine

When it became clear that there would be little progress, “we had to go looking,” he said.

In early February, with six inches of fresh snow on the ground and a nearly impassable mound dug into the base of his driveway, he said a Rite Aid called with the news that they had an extra dose.

“I said, I’ll take it,” said Dr. Shah, who received his second dose on Tuesday. “Come rain, come shine, come snow, I’ll be there.”

But leftovers are getting harder to find. More people are searching, and the extras are dwindling as pharmacies and public health agencies get better at matching the vials available each day to your appointment list.

Vaccination teams in Fairfax County, Va., Fill individual syringes from a shared supply of vaccines to ensure no new vials are opened at the end of the day. Several cities have created special leftover lists to offer doses to police officers, teachers, or seniors. Columbus, Ohio, said its “no waste” list of 250 people is full.

At Discount Drug Mart, a chain of 76 pharmacies in Ohio, vaccination teams add up their doses against no-shows throughout the day and begin reaching the 25 people on their mobile waiting lists early. On rare occasions, someone waiting in the parking lot at 9pm or calling on a whim may get a shot.

“Never wasting a dose is a priority,” said Jason Briscoe, the company’s director of pharmaceutical operations.

Hunting often equates to days of frustration. Sara Stoltz has spent days driving around Dallas trying to get a spare dose for her 64-year-old mother. They are turned away at pharmacies whose waiting lists are already filled 200 people deep. They stop at every Walmart they can, only to find that no one missed an appointment.

“I keep hearing rumors,” Stoltz said, no dose behind them. “It’s like one of those urban myths.”

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