Some California hospitals are violating federal guidelines on vaccine distribution by inoculating relatives of workers who aren’t frontline healthcare providers or first responders.
The hospitals say that many employees who are eligible to be vaccinated are refusing the opportunity, leaving dozens of doses of the vaccine thawed out and spoiling. Rather than waste the vaccine, the hospital allowed some employees to reach out to their families for inoculation.
The hospitals insist that first responders were targeted for the vaccine before any workers’ relatives were inoculated.
A former national leader in emergency management, who asked not to be identified, said this week that, just before Christmas, a relative who works at Southern California Hospital invited members of her family to receive Pfizer vaccines at the facility.
The woman provided the Southern California News Group with text messages from the hospital showing her appointment and subsequent inoculation. She is scheduled to return to the hospital in January to receive a second dose of the vaccine.
“The hospital had planned on vaccinating all of their employees, but a large number of their staff declined and they were sitting on a lot of thawed vaccines,” the woman said, explaining what staff at the hospital told her. “They offered police officers, firefighters and first-responders to get vaccinated and also told employees they could invite four family members.”
Not surprisingly, word got around and the hospital was inundated with pleas for the vaccine, leading to the facility attempting to inoculate police and firemen instead of relatives and friends.
“Faced with thawed, expiring vaccines that can’t be refrozen, and no contingency plan, doctors made the choice to vaccinate people they could,” she said. “That’s what doctors do, save lives. That’s what happens in disasters. Situations are constantly in flux and people have to make command decisions to save as many lives as possible within their current capacity. Hospitals are overwhelmed saving lives and don’t have time to stop and create a new vaccine distribution plan for a small amount of vaccine that is about to expire.”
Part of the problem appears to be poor planning on the part of at least one hospital. They apparently ordered too much vaccine to inoculate their workers, which left a sizable number of doses.
“The excess could not be returned to the distribution center,” she said in an email. “Instructions provided with the vaccine indicated that the vaccine has a shelf life of five days when removed from the approved freezer. The distribution center indicated the vaccine was not to be stored in dry ice or transport freezers. All the vaccine had to be used within five days or go to waste.”
After inoculating all hospital employees who requested the vaccine, staff contacted physicians who treat patients at the facility, as well as local first-responders, including police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians to inform them of the vaccine’s availability, according to Gilbert. Additionally, some public service workers were also vaccinated.
I suppose we should expect these kinds of snafus, especially in the early going. Still, it’s disturbing that the hospitals couldn’t find enough police and firefighters who wanted to be inoculated. It makes us think they really didn’t try hard enough.
As for those who don’t want to be vaccinated, that’s their choice. Frankly, it leaves more vaccines for those who do want to be inoculated, meaning they will get their dose earlier.