A man roams a drugstore late in the evening, looking for a pint of ice cream to take home to his pregnant wife. He’s approached by a woman wearing a face shield and what looks like a hazmat suit. “Can I interest you in a COVID vaccine, sir?” she asks him, a hopeful look in her eyes.
The man doesn’t understand. His tier hasn’t been called yet. He’s not a senior citizen, not a teacher, not a healthcare worker. What makes him eligible for the shot?
The truth is, normally he wouldn’t be. Not yet. But he inadvertently scored an end-of-the-day dose, a shot that would otherwise go to no one. But there’s an easier way for people to get a shot like this man did, and it doesn’t involve stalking a drugstore. It’s called a COVID vaccination standby list.
What Is the COVID Vaccination Standby List?
As you are no doubt aware, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have to be kept in super cold storage (the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not). Once a shot has been removed from the freezer, it starts to deteriorate and has to be used within hours.
Oftentimes, vaccine administrators find themselves with extra shots at the end of the day. But if they don’t find arms to stick them in, those shots go straight into the trash. So, how do you find out about these almost-destroyed shots? Look up Dr. B.
If you’re open to getting a shot with hardly any notice, Dr. B might be for you. Dr. B is connecting vaccine providers, who at the end of the day find themselves with extra shots, with people who are willing and able to get a shot right away.
“Since the service began last month, more than 500,000 people have submitted a host of personal information to sign up for the service, which is free to join and is also free to providers,” says the New York Times. “Two vaccine sites have begun testing the program, and the company said about 200 other providers had applied to participate.”
As of this writing, slightly more than one million people had registered on Dr. B’s COVID vaccination standby list.
How It Works
Signing up is pretty easy. You just enter personal info like DOB, address, health conditions, and occupation. Then you wait. If vaccine providers in your area have extra shots, they’ll send you a text and you’ll have 15 minutes to get back to them.
Then you’ll have to make a mad dash for the vaccination site.
There have been complaints about younger people jumping ahead of older and unhealthy people by grabbing leftover doses. But keep in mind that those shots will go into the trash if they don’t end up in somebody’s arm within a narrow time frame. Experts, including public health professionals and ethicists, say it’s most important that vaccines aren’t wasted.
And if you’re offered a leftover shot, don’t turn it down out of guilt.
“That person should not say no because they want [the vaccine] to go to someone else,” Dr. Shikha Jain told the New York Times. Dr. Jain is co-founder of IMPACT, an organization that strives to improve the equitable distribution of vaccines. But, Dr. Jain says, “it’s really important to be intentional and to be equitable.”
Cyrus Massoumi is taking steps to do just that. Massoumi, founder of Dr. B, said that he has turned down media requests from the bigger publications, and has instead promoted Dr. B on Zoom calls with representatives for minority groups. That’s because COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, and others.
“It was really important for [Massoumi] to let these communities have potentially a place at the front of the line,” said Brooke Williams, who is Black and joined one of Massoumi’s Zoom calls as a member of the Resistance Revival Chorus in New York.
Since participating on the call, Williams has been spreading the word about Dr. B.
“Hearing about shots that were getting thrown out was just heartbreaking and infuriating,” she said.