One of the largest health networks in Pennsylvania has allowed employees’ family members to skip the COVID-19 vaccine line, raising questions about justice at a time of strong public demand and scarce supply. access to employees’ relatives was denounced this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which said the health giant should not have held vaccine clinics for eligible family members of employees. “DOH is in contact with the provider to ensure that forward, they follow the agreement they have signed or risk losing access to the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Maggie Barton, a spokeswoman for the health department. that she did not know that Geisinger had arranged for family members to be vaccinated until they were warned by the Associated Press.Geisinger said that because the family members who received the photos met the state̵
One of the largest health networks in Pennsylvania has allowed employees’ family members to skip the COVID-19 vaccine line, raising issues of equity during strong public demand and scarce supply.
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Geisinger’s decision to grant special access to employees’ relatives was denounced this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which said the health giant should not have maintained vaccine clinics for eligible family members of employees.
“DOH has contacted the provider to ensure that they continue to follow the agreement they have signed or risk losing access to the first doses of COVID-19,” said Maggie Barton, a health spokeswoman.
The state agency said it was unaware that Geisinger had arranged for family members to be vaccinated until she was warned by the Associated Press.
Geisinger said that because the family members who received the photos met state requirements, there was no need to tell the health department that he had given them a vaccine. Geisinger also insisted that state guidelines for the eligibility and use of vaccines were followed, and said that “at no time have we been informed that our vaccine program could be put at risk.”
Geisinger, which has 24,000 employees, distributed in central and northeastern Pennsylvania, has held employee vaccination clinics for three consecutive Sundays in late January and early February. Each employee was allowed to bring two family members, as long as they met the conditions for the gradual release of the vaccine by the state, Geisinger admitted in response to an AP inquiry. Family members did not have to live with the employee to qualify, the health system said.
About 3,600 relatives of Geisinger employees were vaccinated under the program. No additional vaccine clinics are provided for family members of employees.
“The situation in mid-January was very different from what we are in today,” said Geisinger spokesman Matthew Van Stone. At the time, he said, Geisinger had enough vaccine, and “we felt that opening Sunday for staff and up to two Phase 1A family members would make it easier for the community to find meetings throughout the week.”
It is unclear whether the public lost their meetings due to doses given to relatives of employees.
But vaccine clinics have allowed family members to avoid the frustrating, tedious, and often fruitless hunt for a meeting that plagues early state deployment and leads to widespread complaints among Pennsylvania residents. The country is among the lowest ranked in the nation in terms of how effectively it vaccinates its population.
“Even if their intentions are good, we should not use vaccines as ‘work for friends and family,'” said Gabriel Lazaro-Munoz, a professor at the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor Medical College. “It was just to prioritize the wrong people at the wrong time.”
The health care system, which manages nine hospitals and a 550,000-member health plan, has given family members a leg up at the same time that the newly expanded eligibility rules have spurred demand across the country.
Geisinger’s first clinic was held on January 24. That was five days after the state made people aged 65 and older and younger people with high-risk medical conditions eligible for the vaccine. At the time, Geisinger said he was facing a huge demand for vaccine appointments, marked by an extremely high volume of calls and online traffic.
Linda Thorne, 65, who works at her family’s pizzeria, said she had been trying to make an appointment with Geisinger for weeks, but the health care system did not currently schedule appointments for the first dose.
“It’s really disappointing,” she said. “I see that all these people my age are really sick and it’s scary. I don’t want to end up in the hospital with a vent. ”
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Thorne said that Geisinger housed family members given the scarce supply of vaccines.
Other major health networks, including UPMC and Penn State Health, said they did not make separate arrangements for employees’ relatives to be vaccinated.
“Absolutely not,” said Brian Downs, a spokesman for the Lehigh Valley health network. “We follow the (US) phase 1A guidelines and have them from the beginning.”
The health ministry said that while Geisinger had not violated the letter from its supplier’s agreement with the state, “we would hope the suppliers do not give priority to employees’ families over eligible community members,” said Barry spokesman. Ciccocioppo.
Federal guidelines say that people in the same eligibility class should have the same opportunity to receive the photos. The guidelines also say that no one should be disadvantaged “due to social status or other social circumstances”.
Nancy Cass, deputy director of public health at Hopman University’s Berman Institute of Bioethics, said that if Geisinger used the family members program as a way to get more vaccines for less-served populations, she would sees it as an “extremely smart strategy” to increase equity.
“If it’s just a privilege, it’s not appropriate,” she said.
Cass said that while the Geisinger program is problematic, the national distribution of vaccines is generally unfair because it rewards some people above others – especially those who have the time and computer skills to find an open meeting.
Geisinger said staff and family attendance at Sunday clinics was low and began using Sundays to vaccinate patients who needed rescheduled appointments due to bad weather or delays in dispatch.
Geisinger vaccination of family members is a relatively small part of the overall program. By Monday, the health system had administered more than 112,000 doses of vaccines.