Geisinger criticized for administering COVID-19 vaccines to employees' family members

Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System drew criticism from state officials this week for vaccinating employees' family members. 

In a statement shared with ABC 27, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said the nine-hospital health system's actions are not prohibited but should not have occurred. 

"All vaccine providers in Pennsylvania must adhere to the vaccination plan to vaccinate people eligible in Phase 1A. The state's distribution plan is based on equitable and efficient allocation of vaccines," the department said. 

"Even though there is nothing in the vaccination plan or provider agreement to prohibit what was done, we would hope providers would not prioritize employee families over community members who are also eligible."

Geisinger told Becker's it opened Sunday clinics Jan. 24, Jan. 31 and Feb. 7 for employees and family members eligible as part of the state's phase 1A groups. Each employee was allowed up to two phase 1A-eligible family members, and across those three days, about 3,600 family members of employees received their first dose. 

The primary reason for vaccinating employees' family members was to help address vaccine demand and open more appointments in its community vaccine centers, said Geisinger.

The health system contends those vaccinated during the three Sunday clinics were eligible under the state's vaccine plans, which were expanded in Pennsylvania shortly before the Sunday clinics.

Pennsylvania's current vaccine distribution phase includes healthcare workers and residents living in long-term care facilities, people age 65 and older, and those age 16-64 with high-risk conditions. People age 65 and older and younger people with high-risk conditions became eligible days after Geisinger's Jan. 24 clinic. 

Geisinger said it "always has, and will continue, providing vaccines in accordance with state and federal guidelines." 

As of Feb. 25, Geisinger said it had provided more than 112,000 vaccines to high-risk individuals. It does not have more vaccine clinics scheduled for family members of employees.


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