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Herbold To DOH: ‘Dismayed’ With Reports of Top Donors to Local Hospitals Receiving ‘Preferential Access’ to COVID Vaccine

Expresses ‘Concern’ for BIPOC and Vulnerable Communities Who Experience the Highest Levels of COVID-19 Impact

Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park), Chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee, issued the following statement in response to recent reports  about area hospitals providing priority access to vaccines to their wealthiest donors, and the comments made by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) over the weekend on social media:

“Because I was alarmed by these reports, I contacted Umair Shah, Secretary of Health, and Lacy Fehrenbach, Deputy Secretary for COVID-19 Response, at the WA State Dept of Health to request corrective action (excerpt from the email):

As a Seattle City Councilmember, I was dismayed to read reports of local hospitals offering their top donors preferential access to precious and rare COVID-19 vaccine doses.  I regularly hear from residents of my district in southwest Seattle who are currently eligible for vaccination and desperate to receive the vaccination, especially those with additional vulnerabilities who are all but housebound due to their fear of contracting coronavirus.  I have been particularly concerned as my district is in south Seattle, and many of my constituents belong to BIPOC and vulnerable communities, experiencing the highest levels of COVID-19 impact and often unable to easily navigate online systems such as PhaseFinder to get up to date information about vaccine availability.  The actions of leaders at Overlake and other hospitals amount to selling vaccines to the highest bidder, while many more vulnerable residents wait, and worry, and suffer.

I was glad to see Seattle Mayor Durkan speak out strongly against this practice, and I believe it is incumbent upon all officials right now to clearly state that this practice is unacceptable.  So many people are desperate to receive the vaccine, and the rollout has been confusing for many.  It’s understandable that people offered the vaccine may be tempted to take it.  We must make it clear that “jumping the line” in this manner is unacceptable, so that vaccine is preserved for those at most risk…”

“Data shared by Public Health of Seattle & King County show that inequitable distribution of vaccine is occurring systemically in our community.  Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders represent 2.7% of COVID-19 cases, but only .5% of vaccinationsBlack/African-Americans make up 12% of King County’s COVID-19 cases, but only 3.5% of vaccinations,” said Herbold.  

On Saturday, the Department of Health made a post on Facebook calling this practice “egregiously inappropriate behavior,” and saying in part:

…to see such cavalier disregard for allocation strategy that prioritizes the most at-risk and disproportionately impacted populations is unacceptable.

Plainly said, this kind of practice is inequitable, wrong, and must stop immediately. Facilities or organizations found to engage in this practice risk not receiving additional shipments of vaccines.

Herbold continued:  “I appreciate DOH’s clear statement against the practice of prioritizing vaccines for the wealthiest, and their willingness to cut off supply for organizations engaging in it.  It’s essential that we do everything we can to earn the trust of all Seattle residents right now during a confusing and frustrating vaccination rollout.  Any institution that proves itself unworthy of that trust should not be allowed to distribute vaccine.  We must ensure that our community’s most vulnerable are first in line, not last, to receive life saving vaccine.”

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Time February 1, 2021 at 10:43 pm

[…] while expressing outrage at the continuing reports of preferential access; her comments are summarized here. She also repeated what she had said in her Friday newsletter, that the city would eventually have […]

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