ST. LOUIS — When Mercy started signing up their patients for vaccine appointments, the emails included a link that took patients to their scheduling calendar.
But that link circulated quickly as friends and family members shared it with loved ones, and appointments booked up quickly.
"I was ecstatic. I was totally ecstatic," one Mercy patient told 5 On Your Side of her appointment.
The patient — whose name we're withholding because she signed up for an appointment with a forwarded link — is actually eligible for a vaccine under the state guidelines, and she signed up because she thought this was an open registration, especially because the questionnaire screened for things like age and health conditions.
"That's all I thought was 'hey, I'm very lucky that I can get this.' I didn't really even think about anybody using it that wasn't appropriate for it... that wasn't eligible for it, I should say," she said.
Barnes Jewish Hospital has reported a similar issue.
Some applicants made an honest mistake when they scheduled an appointment, but others are abusing the system, signing up well before they're eligible for a vaccine.
To address the issue, St. Charles County tweeted "the link you receive after registration that allows you to sign up for your vaccine CANNOT be shared with others."
And at a recent mass vaccination site, the county's health director, Demetrius Cianci-Chapman, said appointments are given on the honor system, and the department's not capable of punishing people who intentionally lie to get to the front of the line.
"It's not the first time somebody's lied to the health department. You think everybody's completely honest when we're dealing with their syphilis? They're not," Cianci-Chapman said.
Mercy is the only health system in the St. Louis area offering vaccines to high-risk people outside healthcare. Their booking system is full until they receive more vaccines, which are coming in slowly from the state.
BJC is only vaccinating people who work in their company or independent medical offices. They're currently reviewing vaccine appointments and will reschedule anyone who does not work in healthcare until later in the rollout process.