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Crowd turned away from COVID-19 vaccination clinic at old Macy's in Norfolk after people who shouldn't have registered signed up

Virginia Department of Health said certain people received a link to register. Some shared the link. Others used it and got appointments they shouldn't have.

NORFOLK, Va. — The old Macy's at Military Circle was supposed to host a large number of people for a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic Thursday, just not as large of a number as the group that showed up.

Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said it had to turn a crowd of people away after people who shouldn't have registered for appointments, did.

VDH spokesman Larry Hill said that an email went out to certain people for the event. Some of those people who signed up for their appointments shared the email from the health department with friends and on social media platforms. 

People who shouldn't have gotten appointments were able to use a link in the email to make appointments.

Hill said the latter group was short-cutting the system, which he acknowledged wasn't perfect.

VDH knows who was invited to the event and should have had appointments. Those people were eligible under the state's vaccine rollout plan which currently is in Phase 1b. That phase includes:

  • Frontline essential workers
  • People 65 and older
  • People living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps
  • People 16 through 64 years old who have a high-risk medical condition or disability that increases their chances of getting severely ill from COVID-19

Phase 1a, the first phase in the rollout, included health care workers and people who live in long-term care facilities.

Hill said the health department canceled appointments and rescheduled them for people who initially received the email. Other people were sent home.

Sylvia Mapp was one of the people turned away today.

“I’ve waited a half hour, you are going to tell me now, I can’t get it? Forget it," she said.

People said after waiting in a line that wrapped around the building in the cold, they were told to go home.

“My appointment was at 10:30, but I got here 15 minutes early,” Mapp explained.

She said her daughter sent her a link to get the shot, because Mapp takes care of her elderly mom.

“She received the email yesterday and she said mom, I’m going to send it to you,” she explained.

“We did what we were told to do," Mapp continued. "Nobody said anything about a forwarding email.”

As the line got longer, public health leaders had to address the crowd. The cancelation left some people in line confused.

Norfolk Department of Public Health’s Melissa Dozier said the glitch, and all the people who showed up for shots, overloaded their system.

"It allows for appointments to be made for those who were not invited to the clinic today - so that means we don’t have the resources, the staff or the vaccines to see all of these people," Dozier said.

Officials said they don’t expect the scheduling issue to be fixed until the end of this week. In the meantime, they ask: please stop sharing the link.

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