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Health & Science

Why Some People Have 'Jumped The Line' To Receive Leftover Vaccine Doses

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Ethan Miller
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GETTY IMAGES
People line up on the first day of Clark County's pilot COVID-19 vaccination program at Cashman Center on Jan. 14 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In Wisconsin and elsewhere, some people who are not at high-risk for COVID-19 infection have been able to “jump the line” and get vaccinated when providers have had extra doses.

Thirty-three-year-old Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry announced on Twitter that he was able to get the vaccine, even though he is not eligible under Wisconsin’s prioritization plan. Right now, it includes healthcare workers, first responders and people age 65 and older.

Lasry told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his wife, Lauren, got a call from her uncle, who is a rabbi at Ovation Chai Point Senior Living Center in Milwaukee, offering them extra vaccine doses.

Gov. Tony Evers responded to the “jumping the line” issue during a media briefing Friday morning.

“We encourage people that are vaccinating, rather than throwing out a dose of vaccine, they should just get it in somebody’s arm,” Evers said. “We personally — my wife and I — have not jumped the line. We’re still waiting for our primary care physician to give us a call … but I don’t know the circumstances under which [Lasry’s vaccination] happened.”

Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk added that Pfizer vaccine vials hold five or six doses, and the Moderna vaccine holds 10.

“Once you’ve gone into a vial, you can’t just put it back into the refrigerator and use the rest tomorrow – you have to empty that particular vial,” she said. “Let’s say you were planning for 50 people, you had five [Moderna] vials, 41 people show up. Now you’ve got nine doses left in that vial. So that is how this happens on a practical, pragmatic basis.”

Willems Van Dijk said many health providers are keeping waiting lists of people they can call when they have extra doses.

“Many of them are triaging those lists, so if you’re over 65, you’re the first one called,” she said. “We don’t want a dose wasted … that is how this can happen even with excellent planning.”

When asked whether DHS wants vaccinators to have back-up plans in place so that extra doses go to vulnerable adults, Willems Van Dijk said vaccinators do sign agreements saying they will adhere to the state’s vaccine prioritization plan.

“If they perpetually violate those recommendations, we talk with them and have the option of not giving them more vaccine,” Willems Van Dijk said. “But we have also said, ‘Get the vaccine in arms.’ And there is no way we can police every vaccine that is put in an arm.”

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