Facebook group helps eligible, high-risk people search for leftover COVID-19 vaccine

NC/SC Vaccine Hunters helps give information on vaccine waitlists, eligibility questions, available appointments and more for Carolina residents

Group works to make sure all vaccine doses are used in Mecklenburg County

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Getting a vaccine appointment can be difficult.

There’s a lot of information out there about who’s eligible for what and when they can get a shot.

One group is working to help people navigate different methods of getting a vaccine in the Carolinas.

The main mission of the NC/SC Vaccine Hunters Facebook group is to sort through the information when it comes to vaccines and eligibility and share information between people.

Group 4 vaccinations expected to start March 24

They also want to make sure vaccines don’t go to waste at the end of the day. They work to identify waitlists for leftover vaccines for eligible and high-risk people.

“It is better for anybody to get the vaccine than for it to end up in the landfill,” said one member Leigh Thorpe.

Although it’s a small number, there are reports that vaccine doses have had to be thrown out because they expired after the thawing process before getting into someone’s arm. This was first reported at a press conference in January.

This group is working to get eligible and high-risk people on any kind of waitlist for leftover doses.

For people with major health issues, they say getting the vaccine one day or the other could make the difference between life and death.

“This is a vaccine that can save lives. Each dose we throw away is someone’s life you could have saved. There are early data that even once the dose is partially effective,” said Thorpe.

Thorpe has severe asthma. He was in the hospital 5 times in 2020 because of it.

“And every time the COVID test was negative. What really scares me is that I got COVID, I don’t know if I came home,” Thorpe said.

He’s eligible for the vaccine at the end of March as part of Group 4 but says if he can get a leftover dose earlier, he’ll take it.

Leftover or extra doses happen when someone doesn’t show up for their already scheduled appointment, or that a vaccine provider prepared more doses than needed.

Thorpe and others in the group work to get their names put on waitlists, hoping they will get the call to get vaccinated.

“Anybody vaccinated is better than throwing one away,” Thorpe said.

State guidance and the CDC both say a priority should be not to waste any vaccine doses, no matter what.

“Don’t waste any doses. If you are at the end of the day and you have 2, 3 doses leftover but you’re out of folks that fit the priority, our recommendation is keep a wait list,” said North Carolina DHHS Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen. “Our guidance is also if you can’t find somebody on that priority list, find the closest arm of someone who wants to be vaccinated and get that in.”

That’s how Andrea Melendez was able to get vaccinated on Monday at Walgreens.

She wasn’t sure if she qualified under the prioritized phase of Group 3. She went to ask a pharmacist if she should try to make an appointment, instead, she got the vaccine.

“So I asked the pharmacist I asked should I schedule an appointment and he said ‘I have one left, do you want it,’” Melendez said.

Mecklenburg County, Novant Health and Atrium Health are all using waitlist for eligible groups and will notify you if you’re next in line.

WBTV reached out to Walgreens on their formal waitlist policy, but did not hear back from them.

Mecklenburg County said in a press conference on Tuesday they have roughly 6,000 people on their current waitlist, mostly people in Group 3.

Health director Gibbie Harris says that about 4% of their vaccine appointments are no-shows likely because they were able to vaccinate somewhere else.

That’s when they call on their waitlist to get someone else the vaccine.

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