COVID Vaccine Codes Intended for Low-Income Residents and Community Groups Being Misused

Orange cones line the way in a parking lot at the Oakland Coliseum, where military dressed people point the way. A big blue tent that says "Governor's Office of Emergency Services" is set up.
The Oakland Coliseum site is one of two mass vaccination sites in the state. Photo by Howard Dyckoff.

One of the ways in which the state has tried to ensure the vaccines are reaching the most vulnerable — those who live in low-income neighborhoods or zip codes disproportionately impacted by high rates of infection, for example — is to send codes via email and text as an easier way for people to sign up for COVID vaccine appointments.

However, these group codes intended to reach certain populations that otherwise might have a hard time accessing vaccine appointments have now reportedly been misused. “One man, who is in his mid-30s, said the text message sent from a friend said there was a surplus of vaccines at the site and so they were opening up appointments to anyone” (ABC7 News). The state is saying that this is untrue, that the codes are not because there is a “surplus” — or in other cases, the misinformation is that the vaccines will be thrown away if not used.

“Ferguson [a spokesperson for the state’s Office of Emergency Services] said the idea that the code helps extra vaccine doses from going to waste is inaccurate. He said the state intentionally sets aside a certain amount of appointments for community groups to use. And even if there are any extra vaccine doses, the state still does whatever they can at the end of the day to make sure it gets into the arms of an essential worker,” according to a ABC7 report. Currently, vaccines are still designated for those who are healthcare workers; teachers and educators; food and agriculture workers; emergency workers; and those over the age of 65.

Oakland Voices alumnus Howard Dyckoff reported earlier this month the Oakland Coliseum is now open for COVID vaccine distribution and is one of two large-scale distribution sites in the entire state; the other one is at California State University, Los Angeles.

There are also other sites in Oakland that have been open for vaccines, both as temporary sites and at health clinics, including Fremont High School and the Native American Health Center. For more information on vaccine distribution for Alameda County residents, visit the county’s website.

Get Text Alerts About COVID Updates

The Oaklandside has a text-based alert system now for COVID-related updates. Oaklandside said expect to received one update a week. Here’s how to sign up: “To sign up for our text alerts, text “oakland” (or anything) to 510-281-3464 or visit this page.” One of Oaklandside’s media partners, El Tímpano, is providing a text alert system in Spanish.

Author Profile

Momo Chang is a freelance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Oakland Voices Co-Director. Her work focuses on healthcare, immigration, education, Asian American communities, food and culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Momo has received journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting and the Asian American Journalists Association, among others. Her work has appeared in the East Bay Express, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, and The New York Times. Momo is primarily a print journalist who also produces audio and visual stories for documentary film and radio. She is a Senior Contributing Editor for Hyphen and formerly the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).

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