Tulare County health officials to fix loophole that led to ineligible vaccine registrations

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In the South Valley, a large number of people who aren't yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine were able to sign up for the shot.

The problem was revealed by Tulare County's health and human services director at a board of supervisors meeting this morning.

For some context, the county is currently only vaccinating those in Phase 1A, which includes healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

The county's COVID-19 Phase 1A vaccination webpage has a disclaimer that the site is only intended for groups currently eligible for a shot, and a note that those groups will need to show proof once they show up for their appointment.

But county officials say the state's CalVax registration system that they use can't filter out people who fall in different phases of the vaccination schedule.

"So anyone and everyone can sign up," Tulare County Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz said.

Lutz says the county sent registration links to people eligible for a vaccine last week, but the links got leaked to social media.

Requests for shots came pouring in from people who were ineligible, even some from people who live far from Tulare County.

"We had people coming from Oakland, San Jose, and throughout the state trying to come in this weekend to get vaccinations," Lutz said.

It's unclear exactly how many people may have shown up at a clinic and got a shot ahead of schedule, but county officials don't believe there were many.

What is known is those ineligible registrations have taken spots away from those who are eligible and led to some very tense moments at clinics.

"Particularly if they were able to sign up through the link and now we're telling them they're not eligible," Lutz said. "So we've had some that refused to leave, start to rev their engines to intimidate staff since this is a drive-through clinic, and have also been pretty verbally abusive toward our POD staff."

County officials say they've come up with a fix for the loophole.

Priority vaccination groups will now be directed to schedule appointments through a new COVID vaccine call center, which is slated to go live by Tuesday.

They also say the state plans to switch to an improved vaccination registration system.

Action News reached out to the state about plans to change their registration system.

"We will have more for you on this topic in the next few days," a state official told Action News.

Tulare County's COVID-19 website now has a vaccine information page.

On Tuesday afternoon, Tulare County HHSA Public Information Officer Carrie Monteiro provided some additional information about the ineligible registrations that happened recently:

Upon receiving reports that out of County residents were able to register for our closed COVID Vaccine Distribution Clinics for Phase 1A, Tulare County Public Health actively vetted and verified the confirmed appointments. Exact numbers varied by site however we found one of our vaccine distribution clinics to have had 48% of the people registered ineligible, meaning they did not qualify for Phase 1A, did not resident or work in Tulare County. We quickly cancelled ineligible appointments in an aggressive effort to make sure no one who was ineligible received a COVID vaccine. This occurred at our closed COVID Vaccine Distribution Clinics held this past weekend.
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