• Fri. Apr 16th, 2021


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‘It’s Like Buying Bruce Springsteen Tickets’: The Hunt to Find a Vaccine Shot

When it became clear there would be little progress, “We had to go looking,” he said.

In early February, with six inches of fresh snow on the ground and a nearly impassable mound plowed into the base of his driveway, he said a Rite Aid called with the news that they had one spare dose.

“I said, I’ll take it,” said Dr. Shah, who got his second dose on Tuesday. “Come rain, come shine, come snow, I’ll be there.”

But leftovers are getting harder and harder to find. More people are looking, and the extras are dwindling as pharmacies and public-health agencies get better at matching each day’s available vials with their list of appointments.

Vaccine teams in Fairfax County, Va., fill up individual syringes from a shared supply of vaccines to make sure they are not cracking open new vials at the end of the day. Several cities have created special leftover lists to offer doses to police officers, teachers or older people. Columbus, Ohio, said its “no waste” list of 250 people is full.

At Discount Drug Mart, a chain of 76 pharmacies in Ohio, the vaccination teams add up their doses against no-shows throughout the day, and start reaching out early to the 25 people who are on their rolling standby lists. Rarely, someone waiting in the parking lot at 9 p.m. or calling on a whim may land a vaccine.

“It’s a priority to never waste a dose,” said Jason Briscoe, the company’s director of pharmacy operations.

Often, the hunt just amounts to days of frustration. Sara Stoltz has spent days driving around Dallas trying to get a leftover dose for her 64-year-old mother. They get turned away from pharmacies whose wait lists are already full at 200 people deep. They stop at every Walmart they can, only to learn that nobody missed an appointment.

“I keep hearing rumors,” Ms. Stoltz said, with no dose behind them. “It’s like one of those urban myths.”