Hospitals grow tense over who gets vaccinated, how it's decided

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A week that began with great optimism and excitement as hospitals received their first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine ended with reports of growing tension in at least two prestigious organizations as employees with limited patient exposure received their first dose of the vaccine before front-line workers.

Residents with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Stanford Medicine who work directly with COVID-19 patients were left out of the first round of vaccine recipients, ProPublica reported Dec. 18. Instead, higher-ranking physicians who have a lower risk of patient transmission were included, according to interviews with six residents and two other staff members and email communications obtained by the news outlet.

Stanford has about 1,300 residents across all disciplines. Only seven made the priority vaccination group. Residents were asked to volunteer for ICU coverage in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 cases the same week that vaccine distribution began.

Stanford used an algorithm to select the first 5,000 employees for their first shot of the two-dose vaccine. Residents were told they were at a disadvantage for two reasons: They did not have an assigned "location" to plug into the algorithm, and they are young, according to an email sent by a chief resident to his peers, ProPublica reports. 

A reporter for the New York Times tweeted a photo the afternoon of Dec. 18 of a demonstration at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto. 

The demonstration began indoors and then spilled out to the plaza in front of the facility, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The newspaper reports that the gathering grew loud, and demonstrators quieted only for members of the hospital's leadership team to address them. President and CEO of Stanford Health David Entwhistle told the crowd, "We'll correct it. We know that it's wrong."

Stanford Medicine shared the following statement with Becker's Dec. 20: "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."

Mount Sinai Health System in New York also reviewed how it prioritizes who gets vaccinated  after a member of the health system's marketing team posted photos of himself receiving the vaccine to Instagram, according to Politico. The system said the employee was chosen because of his work among high-risk people in the community. Read more here

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