A vaccination site in Co-Op City in the Bronx. Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.
In early January, NY Post reporter Hannah Frishberg shared the story of how she received a leftover dose of the COVID-19 vaccine when she happened to be at a Brooklyn clinic at the end of the day. The healthcare worker who was scheduled to receive that dose missed her appointment, and therefore “It was my arm or the garbage,” wrote Frishberg. Since then, leftover doses have become more and more sought after, with some New Yorkers lining up at sites from 7am in the hopes of getting lucky. And now, a new New York-based website called Dr. B allows you to sign up on a formal standby list to be notified when local providers find themselves with extra doses.
“People miss their appointments. Vials come with extra doses. Any thawed vials must be used within 6 hours, or they get thrown out,” Dr. B explains. Therefore, the startup’s goal is to match those eligible for the vaccine–and who are willing to receive the shot last minute–with vaccine providers.
The startup was founded by Cyrus Massoumi, the founder and former CEO of ZocDoc. In an interview with the New York Times, he said, “Ultimately, patients need this vaccine, and there’s providers who need help getting it to the people of priority. That’s my motivation.” Massoum named the company after his grandfather, who became a doctor during the 1918 flu pandemic and whose nickname was Dr. Bubba.
In a separate interview with Gothamist, Massoumi explained:
When there are those excess doses, one of four things happens. Either they go to waste, or they go to someone who happens to be there—not necessarily the highest priority patient. Or they go to someone who’s a friend in the phonebook of the person giving the vaccine because, out of desperation, they’re just trying to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. Lastly, it may go to people who are able or have the resources to queue in line.
With this in mind, it should be noted that Dr. B, which is available in English and Spanish, still follows prioritization guidelines. One must be legally able to receive the vaccine according to their state or local rules. Upon signing up, one enters their name, date of birth, zip code, email, and phone number. They also must check off any health conditions and their occupation. Dr. B then sorts registrants according to the rules of their zip code so that those with higher prioritization receive extra doses first.
To prevent people from reaching out to providers directly or trying to physically go and obtain extra doses, Dr. B keeps its locations confidential until the time someone receives a text for an available vaccine. According to the Times, there’s a waitlist of about 200 vaccine sites in 30 states that want to partner, and the service has already begun testing at two sites, one in Arkansas and one in New York.
Gothamist received word from Dr. B that the New York site “a small test run at a hub in Queens that administers between 500 and 1,000 shots per day.” Though the company shared the site name with WNYC/Gothamist, they said it could not be named publicly. However, Gothamist had a conversation with a spokesperson for the site, who told the outlet that 10-12 percent of people don’t show up for their appointments on a given day. He attributed this to “appointment shopping,” where a person makes one appointment, but then finds another one that’s closer or has their vaccine of preference.
Since it launched last month, Dr. B has received more than 500,000 sign-ups. If one is notified of an available extra dose, they must respond to the text within 15 minutes and then be able to get themselves to the location within two hours. For the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, there is a six-hour window from the time the first dose is drawn to the time the rest must be discarded.
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