A Disney employee in California bragged that she got a shot of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine early due to her husband’s aunt being a “big deal” at the Redlands Community Hospital outside Los Angeles. The woman got the vaccine despite not being a frontline health care worker.
The woman boasted about the immunization in Facebook posts and comments that have since been removed, the Orange County Register reported.
“When I woke up this morning, I didn’t think I would be getting the COVID-19 vaccine today. But here we are. I’m so very happy,” the 33-year-old wrote on her Facebook page on December 20.
“Science is basically my religion, so this was a big deal for me,” she wrote as we well as posting a vaccination card from the hospital.
When a friend asked her how she came to be vaccinated despite not being on the priority list, she commented that her husband’s aunt was a “big deal” at the hospital and that they had doses of the vaccine that was about to expire, rendering them unusable.
The Redlands Community Hospital explained their reasoning in a statement, saying that the hospital “administered its allotment of Pfizer vaccines to its frontline physicians, healthcare workers and support staff per California Department of Public Health guidelines”.
The hospital started their vaccinations on December 18. “After physicians and staff who expressed interest in the vaccine were administered, there were several doses left. Because the reconstituted Pfizer vaccine must be used within hours or be disposed of, several doses were administered to non-front line healthcare workers so that valuable vaccine would not be thrown away,” the hospital’s statement continued.
The Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine must be kept at -70 degrees celsius and be administered soon after thawing. The vials containing the vaccine are supposed to hold five doses but some were found to house as many as seven.
The Food and Drug Administration said on December 16: “At this time, given the public health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable (the sixth, or possibly even a seventh) from each vial, pending resolution of the issue.”
“However, since the vials are preservative free, it is critical to note that any further remaining product that does not constitute a full dose should not be pooled from multiple vials to create one,” the FDA said.
The vaccine rollout in California hasn’t come without issues. Protests erupted at Stanford University Medical Center Hospital on December 18 when frontline medical workers staged a walkout to protest the hospital’s vaccine distribution, chanting “First in the room! Back of the line!” NBC News reported. The protesters were furious about what they saw as unfair practices, prioritizing vaccinations for senior doctors and other workers who don’t meet patients face to face.
Resident doctor Charles Marcus told NBC that they “came out here after we learned that only seven out of 1,349 residents were selected for the first wave of vaccinations”. The culprit was an algorithm error, ProPublica reported.
The CDC updated their guidelines on December 20 for who should be receiving the vaccine at this time. In Phase 1a, a recommendation put out by the CDC on December 1, health care workers and long-term care facility residents are prioritized for vaccinations. In Phase 1b, guidance put out on December 20, people older than 75 and frontline workers outside of the health care industry are on top of the list. In Phase 1c, the vaccine should be offered “to persons aged 65–74 years, persons aged 16–64 years with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers not included in Phase 1b,” the CDC said.
Around 49 million people are included in Phase 1b and about 129 million in Phase 1c. Phase 2 includes everyone over the age of 16 “not already recommended for vaccination in Phases 1a, 1b, or 1c”.