Hospital CEOs among first to get COVID-19 vaccine to send public message

In several states, hospital CEOs have been among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Many leaders hope the move will help their communities see the vaccine as safe and increase adoption.

On Dec. 11, the FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine for emergency use in the U.S. At Providence, R.I.-based Care New England, President and CEO James Fanale, MD, was the first in line at the health system for the vaccine on Dec. 15. Dr. Fanale is a practicing geriatrician, and wanted to send a strong public message that the vaccine is safe, according to The Providence Journal.

In Washington, D.C., Anita Jenkins, the CEO of Howard University Hospital, was among the first to be vaccinated in a move she hopes would address doubts that Black Americans may have about the vaccine. Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

"Healthcare disparities, research, all of that has not necessarily been a smooth ride for Black and brown people in the United States," Ms. Jenkins told WUSA 9. "That's why this COVID vaccine is met with skepticism. But let's please understand, we are losing the battle with COVID. Black and brown people are dying about three times more from this disease than others."

In addition to being among the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine, hospital CEOs are also using the stories of their front-line workers as a symbol for their communities. Maritza Beniquez, an emergency room nurse at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., was the state's first person to receive the vaccine, according to ROI-NJ.

University Hospital CEO Shereef Elnahal, MD, said Ms. Beniquez's, and other healthcare workers' "adoption of this vaccine will be key to convince community members to vaccinate later. Our healthcare heroes have been, and continue to be, trusted voices for healthcare in our community, and we hope that they will carry the message that these vaccines are safe and effective," he told ROI-NJ.

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