Tensions rise in hospitals over COVID-19 vaccination distribution

Two major health systems are facing backlash over recent decisions regarding which employees should receive the COVID-19 vaccine first.

Mount Sinai, based in New York City, came under scrutiny last week after a member of the marketing and outreach team posted photos of himself receiving the vaccine on Instagram. While the health system stated that the staffer was chosen based on his work among high-risk people in the community, practitioners expressed frustration with the decision.

“The message this photo sends is that those employees who have shown up daily, continually put themselves and their families at risk, work short-staffed because the care has to be done, are less valued and taken for granted,” an ICU nurse said anonymously to Politico.   

Mount Sinai previously stated that, in an effort to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine, it would vaccinate some members at nonhospital based urgent care centers; however, it has since paused such vaccinations and is reviewing its vaccination policy.

Stanford Medicine in Palo Alto, California has likewise come under fire for neglecting to include residents who work with COVID-19 patients in the first round of vaccinated staff members. Instead, higher-ranking physicians who were at a lower risk of being exposed to the virus received vaccinations first.

Out of Stanford’s approximately 1,300 residents, only seven were included in the first vaccination group; however, the same week that vaccination distribution began,  residents were asked to volunteer for ICU coverage, as the health system expected a surge of COVID-19 patients.

According to an email sent by a chief resident, Stanford employed an algorithm to determine who would receive the first 5,000 doses of the vaccine, and the algorithm put residents at a distinct disadvantage because of two factors: their relatively young age and the fact that residents do not have an assigned location.

On December 18, a protest ensued at Stanford. Medical Center in Palo Alto, and President and CEO of Stanford Health reassured demonstrators that situation would be rectified.

Furthermore, on December 20, Stanford Medicine told Becker’s Hospital Review, “We take complete responsibility for the errors in the execution of our vaccine distribution plan. Our intent was to develop an ethical and equitable process for distribution of the vaccine. We apologize to our entire community, including our residents, fellows, and other frontline care providers, who have performed heroically during our pandemic response. We are immediately revising our plan to better sequence the distribution of the vaccine.”

Source: Becker’s Hospital Review