One Medical accused of letting ineligible people get COVID-19 vaccine

San Francisco-based One Medical has administered COVID-19 vaccinations to people deemed ineligible by local health departments, according to internal communications viewed by NPR.

One Medical serves a clientele that pays $199 annually for an easily accessible, tech-focused medical experience. Local health departments have allocated the concierge medical service company thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses. 

Internal communications viewed by NPR show multiple One Medical staffers in Washington, Oregon and California have privately voiced concerns about certain practices, such as vaccine appointments being given to ineligible individuals with ties to company leadership.

The Washington State Department of Health, citing a complaint it received Feb. 10, told NPR it had halted vaccine distribution to the company.  

One Medical said it doesn't allow ineligible patients to be knowingly vaccinated and that it was confident it was "doing everything reasonably in our power to ensure ... our adherence to state and local department of health vaccine eligibility guidelines," according to NPR.  

In January, One Medical offered the vaccine to any of its San Francisco County staff, regardless of their position, NPR reports. In January, even if a patient said they weren't eligible, some could continue to book a vaccine appointment, internal communications show. The company said blocking ineligible patients would have required a complete overhaul of their system and was too technologically difficult to rebuild in the required time.

"Scanning schedules and cancelling appointments [for ineligible patients] is not recommended," Spencer Blackman, MD, the director of clinical education at the company, said in a communication to  staff, according to NPR. 

"We are not policing," Dr. Blackman wrote in January in internal company communications cited by NPR. 

When asked why One Medical didn't verify eligibility, Andrew Diamond, MD, PhD, the company's chief medical officer, said, "There was never guidance that said 'do not verify' ... that would be counter to our principles." When told NPR had possession of communications that indicated otherwise, he said, "That's clearly not the guidance, nor is that the intent of the guidance. We've been far clearer since then."

One Medical responded directly to the media reports, saying, "Any assertions that we broadly and knowingly disregard eligibility guidelines are in direct contradiction to our actual approach to vaccine administration. We have numerous checkpoints in place — online at the time of appointment booking, prior to the appointment via a labor-intensive 'schedule scanning' process, and in-person verification at the point of care as needed — to mitigate abuse of our vaccine booking system. We routinely turn people away who do not meet eligibility criteria." To view the full statement, click here.

More articles on public health:
Some Californians going around rules, taking vaccine appointments meant for people of color
COVID-19 hospitalizations by state: Feb. 24
False claims linking COVID-19 vaccine, infertility are making women hesitant to get vaccinated, health experts say

 

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