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Disney employee brags relative helped her obtain COVID-19 vaccine meant for health workers

A 33-year-old woman who reportedly works for Disney bragged in a Facebook post this week that she received the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reserved for frontline health care workers because of a relative’s connection to Redlands Community Hospital.

“When I woke up this morning, I didn’t think I would be getting the COVID-19 vaccine today. But here we are. I’m so very happy,” the Riverside woman gushed about her good fortune on Sunday, Dec. 20. “Science is basically my religion, so this was a big deal for me.”

She also posted a photo of her vaccination card from Redlands Community.

Family connection

When a Facebook friend inquired how she was able to obtain the vaccine that is not yet available to the general public, she responded that her husband’s aunt is a “big deal” at Redlands Community and had leftover doses that were set to expire.

The woman, who is not being identified by the Southern California News Group, did not return phone calls or respond to a Facebook message seeking comment. She has since removed the posts.

Redlands Community officials explained in a statement how leftover Pfizer vaccine doses were distributed, but did not explain how recipients were chosen or say whether the woman was among those who received them.

“Redlands Community Hospital administered its allotment of Pfizer vaccines to its frontline physicians, healthcare workers and support staff per California Department of Public Health guidelines,” the statement says. “After physicians and staff who expressed interest in the vaccine were administered, there were several doses left. Because the reconstituted Pfizer vaccine must be used within hours or be disposed of, several doses were administered to non-front line healthcare workers so that valuable vaccine would not be thrown away.”

Redlands Community began administering its first batch of the vaccine to frontline workers and support staff on Dec. 18. The hospital didn’t provide specific information regarding how many doses were left over.

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at a temperature of -94 degrees Fahrenheit and administered soon after thawing, or it goes to waste.

Who should get extra doses?

Although vaccine vials typically contain five doses, some have been found to have as many as two extra doses.

All extra does should be administered, the Food and Drug Administration said in a Dec. 16 statement. “Given the public health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable (the sixth, or possibly even a seventh) from each vial, pending resolution of the issue,” the statement says.

Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of public health at UC Irvine, said it’s troubling the Riverside woman was able to obtain one of the extra doses at Redlands Community due to a family connection. Hospitals, he said, have a duty to ensure vaccines are administered appropriately and equitably.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” Noymer said. “Nurses, technicians, janitors and orderlies need to be vaccinated before some random community member.”

The CDC suggests that frontline health care workers should be vaccinated first, followed by vulnerable populations, especially nursing home residents, according to Dr. David D. Lo, senior associate dean of research at the UC Riverside School of Medicine

“But in the end, it is still left to the states (to decide who gets vaccinated) and also the individual sites where vaccines are administered,” he said in an email.

State says frontline workers are first

There is no debate about who should be first in line for vaccines, said Ali Bay, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health.

“The federal and state vaccine guidelines have prioritized our frontline health care workers who have been putting their lives at risk to fight this virus from day one,” she said. “We urge all health care providers to follow the state’s guidelines on vaccination phases which were created in consultation with experts and community leaders.”

However, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in California hasn’t been without glitches.

On Dec. 18, frustrated physicians at Stanford University Medical Center Hospital staged a raucous protest after an algorithm failed to prioritize most frontline doctors for initial doses of the vaccine. The hospital has since apologized and agreed to amend its vaccination distribution plan.

While some may believe it is unwise or unethical to give the first batch of vaccinations to non-frontline providers, such as politicians, it isn’t illegal and may have some advantages, Lo said.

“It might induce skeptics to take the vaccine if they see vaccination of public figures, and to achieve effective herd immunity, we do want widespread uptake of the vaccine”, he said.

Source: Orange County Register

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