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Long Beach Mistakenly Emailed Vaccine Appointments To Hundreds Of Non-Eligible Residents

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Downtown Long Beach. Chava Sanchez/LAist
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The good news came by email Friday for a few hundred people who had registered for the COVID-19 vaccination through the city’s VaxLB site: “It’s your turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” it said, along with links to make an appointment for the shot this week.

For many, it was a huge and pleasant surprise, because some weren’t in any of the groups slated to get vaccinations this soon. They weren’t over the age of 65, they weren’t educators or health or food workers... but if the city was dishing out vaccinations, sure, why not get one?

The bad news came Saturday, again by email: “You may have received an email in error inviting you to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine,” this one said, advising the recipient to cancel their appointment and further notifying them that if they didn't cancel and decided to show up without the required proof of eligibility, they would be turned away.

“We’re still trying to figure out what happened,” said Sandy Wedgeworth, Long Beach Health Department’s public health emergency management director, who estimates the wrong forms were sent to about 350 residents.

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In mass emailings for vaccination notifications, the city uses Mailchimp, an email marketing service. The city decides what groups should be getting the messages by setting filters on the service.

“When people are on VaxLB, they indicate what group they fall in,” said Wedgeworth. Those include being 65 or older, a health worker, an educator, etc., as well as “none of those apply to me.”

“We apply the filters, and those are the ones that Mailchimp is supposed to pull from,” she said.

In this case, the system didn’t filter out those who belonged in no particular priority group.

“We’re trying to determine what went wrong,” said Wedgeworth. “Whether it’s a problem with Mailchimp, or human error on our end. The team is looking to drill down so it won’t happen again.”

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Currently, the city is only vaccinating people in the following groups:

  • Healthcare workers
  • Age 65 and over
  • Government emergency responders
  • Food and agriculture sector workers
  • Educators (including early children educators and day care, Pk-12, and higher education, day camp and after-school programs)

This story was originally published by our friends at the Long Beach Post and is republished with their permission.