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Doctor who has spotted vaccine line-cutters says: This honor system demands honor from all its users

People wait in line right outside the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Roxbury on Feb. 2 before the vaccine site opened its doors.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

In my two decades as a physician, I had never met anyone who pretended to be a nurse or a doctor. Last week I met such impostors on two separate occasions. The reason: They each wanted the COVID-19 vaccine at the clinic where I volunteer. Both were young and healthy. They didn’t qualify to receive the shot, but they were determined to cut in line while people 65 and older and many other eligible Massachusetts residents waited.

In the past month, I’ve met dozens of line-cutters. Most of them — in their 20s to 50s and apparently healthy — misrepresented their eligibility when they registered for the vaccine. This is possible because Massachusetts has relied mainly on an honor system where anyone can simply declare that they meet the state’s Phase 1 or Phase 2 requirements.


As recently as Wednesday, the cheating was conspicuous because the rules were simple: One had to be at least 75 or a health care worker. Now the rules are more complicated: One can be at least 65, suffer from two medical conditions on a state-determined list, or live or work in affordable senior housing. In theory, these rules are perfectly sensible. In practice, their complexity makes it easy for people to stretch the truth. I am concerned that line-cutters will book appointments intended for more vulnerable people.

I sympathize with everyone who sees the vaccine as a door to reconnect with family and friends and return to the quality of life we once knew. But for many people, the vaccine is still, in the statistical sense, a matter of life and death. None of us would push a senior or chronically ill person out of the way while trying to board the T. If you know in your heart you’re not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, please don’t do a comparable thing in your rush to receive it.


Dr. Michael Singer


The writer is a physician-scientist and is chief scientific officer of a biotech that has a product in clinical trials for COVID-19.