They wait in the cold, in the dark, sometimes for hours. After the vaccine super station at Petco Park is closed for the day, these so-called vaccine hunters stand in line, scrambling to get a leftover shot.
Jeremy Warren drove to the downtown site from Carlsbad on Tuesday. But, after waiting until 7:30 p.m., Petco Park volunteers told the line there were no extra vaccines.
“No vaccine. No extra vaccines today, so we’re a little disappointed. But we understand and actually, it’s a good sign. It means everyone came to their appointment today and probably those are the most vulnerable people who really need it the most, got it,” Warren said.
UC San Diego Health runs the Petco Park super station. A spokesperson said extra doses first go to people on the state’s priority list, including volunteers, first responders, and people served by Saint Vincent De Paul Village. Only after that, do doses go to people waiting in line.
But that isn’t deterring people from seeking the extra doses. They’ve been nicknamed “vaccine hunters.” They are people who wait at a pharmacy or vaccination site for leftover doses. They say they’re not “jumping the line” but simply making sure the vaccines don’t expire.
Brad Johnson was born and raised in Orange County, California, but is currently a medical student at Tulane University in New Orleans. He wanted to make tracking down vaccines easier so, he created the Facebook Group, NOLA Vaccine Hunter.
“It is a Facebook group designed for people to share information about vaccines at these sites that are soon to expire, leftover doses that would otherwise be thrown away,” Johnson said.
The Facebook group is Johnson’s attempt at correcting what he calls “a government failure.” He said, “I’ve previously described it as a ‘patchwork of chaos.’ There’s no organization whatsoever and it’s hard for people, citizens like you and me to figure out where they can get a vaccine.”
Johnson’s page started a nationwide movement, with similar Facebook groups dedicated to Vaccine Hunting in California and specifically San Diego.
NBC 7 spoke to the admins of all of these groups.
They say some of their members are successfully tracking down leftover vaccines for themselves or their parents. Johnson says messages of gratitude he’s received from these vax hunters are extremely touching.
“Even if it’s just one person, one person that’s able to be protected from this horrible virus and the effects it’s have done on our society in our world. I think that’s a success,” she said.
Johnson said he realizes these Facebook Groups are not the ideal solution. He’s working with Louisiana State Officials to better coordinate who receives leftover vaccines in the state. He’s hoping they can create an official vaccine waiting list that prioritizes health care workers, seniors and essential workers.