As first reported by the Los Angeles Times, 900 of the clinic’s 1,500 vaccination slots were claimed by those ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in the state of California. The clinic was designed to vaccinate people 65 and older and essential workers such as grocery store employees, who live or work in Pasadena, and an email with a registration link was sent to those who qualified last week. Instead, city spokesperson Lisa Derderian tells Variety that many of those who had signed up for the clinic worked at production companies, news outlets, streaming platforms and film or television sets.
“They were not in the current tier. A lot of them worked for the streaming, video and production companies or news, and they didn’t live or work in Pasadena,” Derderian says.
Derderian says she was first alerted to the issue when a reporter for the L.A. Times called her office on Monday, saying that they had received a link to register for the vaccine clinic and asking if it was legitimate. Derderian then called the Pasadena Public Health Department, who took a look at the backend of the CalVax registration system, where the addresses and employers of those who had registered can be accessed.
“Within an hour of the site being live we had several hundred who were already registered that did not meet the eligibility,” Derderian says.
That number quickly climbed to 900 by the end of the day on Monday, leading to the city’s decision to cancel Thursday’s clinic. Derderian says that similar situations have happened before in regards to ineligible people registering to be vaccinated, but never in numbers this high.
Typically, Derderian says the city audits the names and addresses of each person who registers, and makes personal calls to verify the eligibility of those who don’t fall in the current tier. But, 900 calls was too many for the staff to handle, and so they canceled the clinic rather than risk those who were ineligible showing up.
“900 was not a feasible amount to make those calls, so we determined that we need to cancel it and call the remaining ones that were legitimate,” Derderian says. “Unfortunately, a lot are the senior population that we’ve really been working hard to make contact with.”
The city is looking to reschedule the clinic for early next week, if not sooner, and is considering switching their registration system to MyTurn, another state system that could offer an easier verification process.
Although the original email sent to those eligible for the clinic contained text making it clear who qualified for the vaccine, Derderian believes it was spread by someone who obtained the link, and then forwarded that to others without the context.
In the end, Derderian encourages all California residents to wait for their appropriate time to get vaccinated.
“I mean, most people know what tiers they fall under, it’s in the news everyday,” Derderian says. “If in doubt, they should have called. So I’m sure some of it was unintentional, but a lot of it was trying to manipulate the system.”