By Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago couple had appointments to get their COVID-19 vaccines, until the city cut them off. They are not alone as the city was forced to cancel many shots.

David Williams and his wife are eligible for the vaccine, and they’ve spent hours trying to secure a spot to get it, so when a friend shared a code that helped them get into the system, they went for it.

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But they ended up playing the waiting game all over again.

“I get yelled at by my wife all the time for going out once a week to grocery shop,” David said.

A weekly trip to grocery store is what pandemic life has been like for the 73-year-old and his wife. They are a former professor and a substitute teacher with pre-existing conditions that force them to take every precaution possible.

“We double mask,”he said. “We’ve gone through every flavor of hand sanitizer you can imagine.”

They’re more than ready to get vaccinated but say they didn’t realize how hard that would be, even though they’re eligible, per the state’s standards.

“When it comes to distribution of the vaccine, it’s turned into a search on eBay for Cabbage Patch Dolls,” he said.

They’ve spent hours on the computer, at all hours, trying to book appointments anywhere. So when a friend said a code helped them make an appointment, the couple tried the same thing.

“She said this code is something that seems to work. Go ahead and try it out,” David said.

They were finally able to secure a slot at a city vaccination site.

“We had no idea that code was for home healthcare workers,” he said.

They did not know until that appointment was canceled, and they weren’t alone.

CBS 2 learned through Chicago’s Department of Public Health that an “unexpected number of people” used that code to register. They did not say what they’ll do to make sure that does not happen again.

We discovered that a code that was provided exclusively for home healthcare workers to make vaccine appointments at the PODs – a group within 1a that is far less likely to have other vaccine avenues available – had been shared with others not within that group, and an unexpected number of people used it to register for a vaccine over the course of January 23 and 24. As such, in order to make these appointments available to those for whom they are intended, we have cancelled the appointments of any non-healthcare workers and are working rapidly to re-book healthcare workers who are currently eligible for vaccination at these POD sites.

Those who made an appointment and are not within the eligible groups for the PODs should expect to be able to receive a vaccine through their primary care physician, their employer or a pharmacy. For more information on these options please visit www.chicago.gov/COVIDvax

As a reminder, our POD sites are continuing to prioritize those groups in 1a that have yet to receive the vaccine, while beginning to move into certain groups within 1b that do not have another dedicated avenue to vaccination. Criteria for those eligible to receive the vaccine in phase 1a and phase 1b can be found here.

The City of Chicago continues to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for vaccine distribution, as this is how we will best protect our most impacted and vulnerable Chicagoans with what is still a very limited supply of the vaccine.

And that’s as reports continue to come in on others who are taking advantage of loopholes, like this one, by taking appointment slots and jumping ahead of those who are eligible right now.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health said all vaccine providers are required to follow state guidance on eligible populations. They did not address the cases CBS 2 brought them where that isn’t happening.

IDPH is working closely with providers to ensure they are following federal and state guidelines as they vaccinate their communities. COVID-19 vaccination providers participating in the vaccination program are required to sign a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Prover Agreement and an IDPH Vaccination Provider Agreement, which require providers to adhere to all requirements, including ACIP and state guidance on eligible populations.

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Walgreens Media Team did not response to CBS 2’s follow-up request on continued reports from people who have reached out to us about jumping the eligibility line.

Tara Molina