LEFTOVER VACCINES

COVID Vaccine Hunters: Tracking Down Leftover Doses

Two South Florida women share their effort to help connect people with leftover COVID vaccines.

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Of the millions of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Florida, the state department of health said only 4,393 doses had been reported as wasted as of Feb. 25. 

A spokesperson did not say how many of those were thrown out because someone canceled or didn’t show up for their appointment.

“People are so desperate to get these that one wasted is too many,” Stacey Labell said.

It is why Stacey and Melissa Cohen decided to team up last month to create the website, leftovervaccinehunters.com.

“We have a section for providers and we have a section for the people who are looking for the leftover vaccines,” Stacey said.

Stacey said so far, about 10 providers across South Florida had signed up, committing to letting them know when they have a leftover dose available.

“As soon as the distribution site will call us up and say, ‘hey, we have 15 leftovers and you need to be here by 5 p.m.,’ we then start to go through our database to match the person who could get there,” Stacey said. 

Stacey told NBC 6 they had already been able to connect 25 people with leftover vaccines.

A recent NBC 6 Investigation found getting access to a leftover dose can be difficult and that different providers have different policies on how they handle potential leftovers.  

Some have set their sights on so-called leftover vaccines – those not used up because of missed appointments throughout the day. NBC 6's Alina Machado reports

Stacey said they wanted to help.

“A lot of places don’t really have the manpower to do what we’re going to do,” Stacey said. “It takes a while to go through this list, compile the list, keep the list updated when people do get the vaccine.  It’s really a full-time job.”

The women said over 2,000 people of all ages registered so far.

“We have teachers, we have all essential workers on there,” Melissa said. “High-risk people that are really desperate to get it.”

Melissa said each person who gets vaccinated gets us one step closer to ending the pandemic.

“Whether it’s a 65-year-old or a 52-year-old, what does it matter?” Melissa said. “It’s a leftover vaccine that’s about to go to the trash and they can get there fast enough, so give it to them.”

The women said they volunteer their time and resources. Stacey said she decided to do the project to set an example for her children.

“I’m really trying to teach my children that you don’t just complain,” she said. “You try to change things. We saw a way to change … the optic of leftovers, to change how people are feeling about it, and to give people hope. We’re putting you on a list and you’re not 65 or older and you might have a chance of getting a vaccine before your age group is allowed.”

During our interview, the women said they were working to get more providers to sign on, so they could connect more people to leftovers when they become available. They also said signing up – whether as a provider or a person looking for a leftover – is free.  

While they tried to prioritize at-risk groups, they said it often comes down to who can get to the vaccination site first.

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