DC man, wife get COVID-19 vaccine early after calling pharmacy

Right now, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything as in-demand as a COVID-19 vaccine. There’s a limited supply, you have to meet certain qualifications to get one – or at least, that’s the idea.

In some cases, people like Mark Sussman – a 30-something street safety advocate who lives in D.C. – have still found a way to get vaccinated.

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Here’s how: after Sussman heard some pharmacies were having to throw out unused doses, he called his neighborhood Safeway and asked if they’d reach out if there were ever extras at the end of a night. Sure enough, Sussman said he and his wife got the call Monday.

"There are others that were probably more deserving but you know it would have gotten thrown in the garbage if I hadn’t taken action," he told FOX 5.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, essentially agreed. He said that while officials must make an effort to get vaccines to priority groups first, what happened with Sussman is definitely better than nothing.

"There should not be any vaccine being put into a trash can," he added.

READ MORE: DC man goes to Giant to shop, gets COVID-19 vaccine

Adalja also noted that while he believes the federal government has done a great job of developing a vaccine and incentivizing companies to make it, he does not think they’ve done a good job with planning the rollout, and importantly, giving states the resources to do it.

"We know that these health departments are basically under-resourced chronically, that they’re the same people responding to COVID-19, that they have to pull people to manage this vaccination rollout, and they need resources to do it. So there are going to be hiccups and not everything is going to be seamless."

As for whether or not other people can call their local pharmacies and get on a list like Sussman, the answer is somewhat unclear.

Safeway, which is where Sussman said he got his shot, shared the following statement with FOX 5 on Tuesday:

"In the rare instance where a pharmacy has leftover vaccine, the D.C. Department of Health has given us the direction to ensure that not a single dose is wasted. Because of the time sensitivity associated with administering any unused doses, we are focusing those efforts on vaccinating individuals identified in Phase 1A or Phase 1B of the rollout plan."

Meanwhile, other companies, like Giant Food, said they do not have a waitlist and customers should not call asking for one.