Medical centers across the U.S. are vaccinating thousands of people against COVID-19 in defiance of state and federal guidelines.
Hospitals affiliated with Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University and Vanderbilt University have given administrators, young graduates and lab technologists their first coronavirus jabs, reported The New York Times.
However, millions of frontline healthcare workers and elderly Americans in nursing homes are still waiting for their shots, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.
Despite suggestions to broaden some of the criteria of who qualifies as a frontline healthcare worker, many did not expect young, healthy people would be given the inoculations over those at higher risk.
But it’s not just elite hospitals; public health experts say it’s likely hundreds of private and public institutions across the U.S.
Hundreds of medical centers across the U.S. have been giving non-frontline healthcare workers, such as administrators and non-graduates their first coronavirus doses. Pictured: Frontline medical workers wait in line to receive the Pfizer vaccine at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia, December 16
At elite universities like Harvard, Columbia, NYU and Vanderbilt, rumors circulated that all staff members could gets shots regardless of status despite state guidelines. Pictured: Dr Nick Gilpin receives his second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shot from registered nurse Susan Grant at Beaumont Health in Southfield, Michigan, January 5
‘Cronyism and connections have no place in the rollout of this vaccine,’ Ruth Faden, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told The Times.
‘If we don’t do this right, the consequences could be quite catastrophic, so it’s really critical that people be hypersensitive to the rules of the game here.’
When the CDC’s committee first issued its recommendations, only frontline workers and nursing home residents and staff.
This was later expanded to include any doctors, nurses or other healthcare workers who interact with patients, otherwise known as front-facing.
The Times reported that Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville, Tennessee, has asked all staff members to register for a vaccine appointment.
This includes those who do and do not treat patients.
‘We are continuing to follow the guidance we receive from the Tennessee Department of Health as we vaccinate the Vanderbilt Health work force and other priority groups of patients, employees and community health care personnel,’ John Howser, chief communications officer for the medical center, said in a statement, to the Times.
The Tennessee Department of Health disagrees with this approach and says frontline and high-risk staff should be prioritized.
‘Hospitals have been encouraged since the beginning of the onboarding process to use any remaining vaccine to vaccinate high-priority populations,’ said Bill Christian, a spokesman for the department, told The Times.
‘Some hospitals interpreted their ‘staff’ broadly.’
At Columbia University, the same thing occurred at Milstein Hospital, the flagship campus for the school’s practicing physicians.
The Times reports that rumors began to spread among staff that anyone who visited the vaccination site could be immunized.
This led to postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and almost every employee at a cancer research center affiliated Milstein getting the jab.
However, New York Gov Andrew Cuomo (D) has previously said anyone who vaccinates a person out of the state-designated order will face an up to $1 million fine.
Kate Spaziani, vice president of communications for the hospital, said Columbia is following New York State Department of Health guidelines.
‘We have worked to vaccinate tens of thousands of employees to date, beginning with patient-facing staff, and are constantly striving to improve our vaccination process,’ she told The Times.
In the same state, NYU’s Langone Medical Center, an email was allegedly sent to staff members last month that all people will be vaccinated regardless of whether or not they are patient-facing.
Dr Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University, said it is not just ‘elite’ hospitals that are vaccinating non-frontline workers.
‘That’s just not true,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘Montefiore did it, Bellevue, did it, Health and Hospitals did it. Lots of New York City insistutions, both fancy – Columbia, NYU – and not were definitely doing the workforce because they didn’t know what else to do.
However, this has drawn ire from the state’s Department of Health.
The guidance ‘does not provide carte blanche to vaccinate all employees of a hospital entity regardless of their function,’ Gary Holmes, a spokesman, told The Times.
‘While we do not know all the facts here, to the extent there is a violation, D.O.H. will investigate it.’