“Line jumpers” reportedly used shared code to get New Mexico COVID vaccine early

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Health care workers have been getting their COVID-19 vaccines for the past few weeks. However, we’ve learned people outside of that group have been able to cut in line and also get the vaccine.

KRQE News 13 learned health care workers shared their so-called “special event codes” with family and friends, who shared them with more people, allowing them to get the vaccine, no matter their age, occupation, or health. Wednesday afternoon, News 13 asked the NMDOH why they’re getting to jump the line.

“Yes, we are aware of surrounding reports of people jumping the line by sharing codes,” said Dr. Tracie Collins, Secretary-Designate of the NMDOH. “What we’ve done immediately is implement a technical fix to try and prevent this from happening.”

A viewer tipped News 13 off to the confirmation code “BYE2020” being used to make appointments for the COVID vaccine at EXPO New Mexico; News 13 confirmed it worked. We were shown the appointment confirmation by someone who used the code and was able to get an appointment for the vaccine this week.

The code was originally given out by hospital employees who started circulating the limited-supply code which allowed hundreds to get the vaccine who were not in the high-risk categories like the elderly and chronically ill — which were next in line to get the shot. Some locals we’ve spoken to say they’re not happy others are taking the vaccine before those who need it most.

“I’m sorry that people are jumping the line. It means they don’t care about other people,” said Charles, an Albuquerque local. “We’ve seen more selfishness come out and more community spirit come out of this pandemic and it’s too bad we’re seeing the selfishness come out also.”

“I think that’s a really slippery slope and for a lack of a better phrase, it’s just not cool. My wife is a healthcare worker, she’s a nurse and she’s gotten her first dose and she waited her turn,” said Marc Comstock, an Albuquerque local. “Just as our responsibility is to wear our mask, and wash our hands and socially distance, is to wait our turn and I think they should rethink what they’re doing.”

News 13 asked the NMDOH how this even happened since it’s connected to the state’s website and would need to be approved. Secretary-designate Collins said they are fixing the website and will no longer give a code you can share. It has to be linked to your appointment and will be specific to you. The “BYE2020” code has already been disabled.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the local hospitals to see if they’re aware this was happening. UNM Hospital and Lovelace both said their employees are getting vaccinated through the hospital and have not used a special event code. Presbyterian said it is aware of a few incidents of people inappropriately seeking vaccines.

This comes as the state announces more than 48,000 vaccines have been administered so far in New Mexico. But, less than three-quarters of the state’s 80 providers are reporting their data, so the state estimates as many as 68,500 vaccines have actually been given.

Meanwhile, Dr. Collins said the department isn’t yet ready to reveal who qualifies for the next phase of the vaccine rollout or when, only that it will include those ages 75 years and older, and that they’ll have more information sometime this week.

“We just want to make sure we’re prepared and we have a system in place so we don’t run into a disaster like we saw in other states with people standing in line,” Dr. Collins said. She added that the state is ahead of the game by having an app for registration.

By the end of the week, the state hopes to also roll out a call center for vaccine registration, to help reach people who don’t have access to the internet, like the elderly, poor, and the homeless. So far, about 300,000 New Mexicans have registered for the vaccine on the state’s website, and they’re still encouraging everyone to sign up.

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