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What happens if you schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment through a shared link?

"What that does, unfortunately, is that it simply creates an inconvenience for the person who the link has been shared with"

ST. LOUIS — People who've found success scheduling vaccine appointments, in an effort to help others, may share the link they used to register.

“I'm sure the sharing was done with the noblest and the best of intentions. You know, people want to take care of their loved ones, their neighbors, their friends,” said St. Louis County Health Director Dr. Faisal Khan. “But what we're asking people to do is, please don't do that.”

Most often it's done to be helpful, but it is causing issues with the process at both Mercy Hospital and with the St. Louis County Health Department.

Since people are being told to put their names on every list they can access, neither vaccinator places blame on people for signing up for the vaccine through shared links. However, they say eliminating them makes it easier for the process to move as it should, to keep getting vaccine invitations out to the people who need it most.

Mercy Hospital's so-called "unauthorized" or "secret links," as they’ve become known are really links that were meant to go to people only when it's time to invite them to get their shot. People began sharing them with others searching for a vaccine—and now some links are a Google search away. That’s why some people might not even realize they’re getting scheduled on a shared link. (The Mercy website also has “share” buttons on every page automatically, which may have led to confusion.)

RELATED: St. Louisans turn to 'secret' links for COVID vaccine appointments

A Mercy spokesperson told 5 On Your Side that because of this, the hospital hasn't been able to reach as many of the most vulnerable people pre-registered and waiting for a vaccine appointment: seniors. It may also be the case that by the time a person who was sent the link is able to click it open to schedule, someone else has taken all available appointments.

The system is set to be repaired by the end of the week, so the spokesperson said it “shouldn’t be an issue” moving forward.

However, she said anyone who was able to secure an appointment, even through one of these shared links, will not be turned away when you show up to get the shot.

That’s not the case for St. Louis County’s Health Department, where the possibility of scheduling through a shared link is also set to be eliminated by Friday.

Dr. Khan said that people won't be able to actually get a shot if scheduled through a shared link.

“What that does, unfortunately, is that it simply creates an inconvenience for the person who the link has been shared with,” he said.

If you're preregistered with the St. Louis County Health Department, were invited to schedule a shot and did so through the link they sent you – everything done as the process intends – you'll be on the list to get vaccinated.

“That's the idea to track the identity of the person against the registry information and confirm that appointment to make sure that it's the individual that the original email and the link was sent to,” said Dr. Khan.

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