NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — First in, first out. Securing the call for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment is as simple as signing up and waiting for a few hundred-thousand people to get theirs first while your name creeps toward the top of the list.
That list however — which right now is supposed to only contain healthcare workers, seniors and those with underlying medical conditions — likely has others on it too. Public health officials acknowledge young, healthy people are getting on the list, and getting doses.READ MORE: Secrets For Travelers During Surge In 'Revenge Travel'
“It’s technically possible that people are gaming the system,” said Matt Richardson, the director of Denton County Public Health. “I think that’s minimized. We’re asking people to do the right thing.”
Public health officials are asking, but no one is really checking. There is no system to confirm if those enrolling really meet the eligibility criteria, and vaccine distributors are consumed with the logistics of getting the shots out.
“Our goal is not to get in the way,” said Vinny Taneja, who heads public health in Tarrant County. “But we do know there are people who may have put in faulty information.”
The distribution of appointments for available doses is still limited to those in the state’s Phase 1A group, healthcare workers and emergency responders, and those in 1B, seniors and people with conditions that put them more at risk from an infection.
Taneja said available appointments are simply split between those two groups, with names pulled from the top of each list.
In mid-January, Tarrant County started holding some appointments for people from zip codes with higher case loads, which Taneja said added another wrinkle to the process. Largely though, it’s still based on when you sign up.
Getting onto one of those lists is also simple, based entirely on how you answer questions primarily completed through online registration portals.READ MORE: DFW Area Shouldn't Have Problems With Gas Supply Or Prices Following Ransomware Attack On Pipeline
The portal in Denton County has a series of drop-down menus where the user determines their own eligibility. Choose “Yes” for the question that asks if you are a healthcare worker and another that asks the type of facility where you work, and you’re in.
When people in that group arrive on site for their shot in Tarrant County, Taneja said they’re asked to show an ID, confirming they work for a healthcare system or are involved in emergency response.
Getting onto the 1B list works the same way, but without needing to show proof. Choose “Yes” from the drop-down menu that asks if you have a medical condition that puts you at risk, and in Tarrant and Denton the sites in turn indicate “Yes” you are currently eligible. There’s another menu for you to choose your condition, but you don’t have to answer it.
“We do require people to attest that they fit into phase 1A and 1B and we are documenting their identification at check in,” Richardson said. But we’re not asking them to prove a medical condition. We’re not doing a medical review on site.”
Recipients are asked a second time about their health when they arrive on site. Taneja said that tripped up a 25-year-old teacher at one site, who made the list by claiming chronic health conditions. By the time the appointment came around they forgot about that entry, answered on-site that they were healthy and consequently didn’t receive a dose.
Based on the broad list of qualifying conditions, some registrants may not necessarily need to lie to qualify. Mild asthma is on the list, high blood pressure, and being overweight based on a Body Mass Index of over 25, a level many athletes would qualify for.
While officials can’t be sure how many people are cutting in line, they are appealing to people to respect the needs of those who are anxious for their turn, for good reason.
“There are truly a lot of people who need the vaccine, and they are at risk of dying,” Taneja said. “If you’re young and healthy wait your turn. Put in the information. We’re not saying don’t put in your information. Put in accurate information. When the time comes you will be ahead of two million other people. So do your part, but stay honest, that’s my message.”MORE NEWS: CBS 11 Obtains Exclusive Photos Of Teen Migrants Detained At Dallas Convention Center
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