California-based healthcare provider allegedly let people 'skip' COVID-19 vaccine line

One Medical is a concierge-type medical service and provider that costs $199 annually to join. It operates in more than a dozen U.S. cities and tends to attract higher income patients.
SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco-based One Medical has terminated several employees after it was discovered the company reportedly allowed ineligible patients to get vaccinated.

A company spokesperson tells ABC that the allegations "perpetuates dangerous public misconceptions" about their COVID-19 vaccine protocols and that the "majority" of the people they vaccinate across the country are not their annual due-paying members, but have been "referrals from departments of health, including health care workers, nursing home patients, educators, and the homeless." They say One Medical has a "zero-tolerance policy" for any instance of preferential vaccine treatment to ineligible persons.

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San Francisco's Department of Public Health shared a letter with ABC30 sister station ABC7's Kate Larsen, that they sent to One Medical on Monday.

In the letter, the city's COVID-19 command center directs One Medical to return 270 vials or 1,600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. DPH said they are redirecting those doses to other priority populations in the city, and that they have stopped allocating vaccine to One Medical.

One Medical is a concierge-type medical service and provider that costs $199 annually to join. They operate in more than a dozen U.S. cities and tend to attract higher-income patients.

One Medical is in trouble in California for reportedly letting people 'skip the line' to get vaccinated.

National Public Radio reported the practice appeared to be happening at One Medical locations in Washington and Oregon, as well.

NPR published messages between One Medical doctors and staff who were expressing concern about young, low-risk patients receiving vaccines at One Medical locations.

Kate Larsen spoke with David Magnus, the director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, about inequities that are built into the vaccine distribution system.

"I think we have to be very vigilant from an ethical point of view, not just looking at what the regulations say, but what are the factors and the ways structural racism is actually built into the way the distribution channels are being set up," Magnus said.

Larsen: "Providers obviously have a responsibility to follow the eligibility requirements and rules, but how much personal responsibility do we all have to make sure we're part of the equity solution when it comes to vaccines?

Magnus: "I think that's really the key issue, and that means for some individuals if they know that they can wait, they probably should wait."

One Medical sent this lengthy statement to ABC:

Recent media reporting about One Medical perpetuates dangerous public misconceptions about our COVID-19 vaccine protocols and, more importantly, has impugned our company values in our efforts to collaborate with health officials across the nation to administer COVID-19 vaccines. Although this type of reporting is disheartening to our team members who have worked tirelessly nights and weekends dealing with the complexities and challenges of the vaccine roll out, we remain committed to serving our communities and hope that this report does not impede our ability to continue doing this vital work.

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. Our data currently shows nationally 96% of individuals vaccinated by One Medical have eligibility documentation and the remaining 4% generally were vaccinated in accordance with zero wastage protocols.

Since vaccinations began in late 2020, we have been proactively meeting and working closely with health officials in the markets we operate. The majority of individuals vaccinated by One Medical across the US are not our own annual due-paying members, but have been referrals from departments of health, including health care workers, nursing home patients, educators, and the homeless. We have transparently reviewed our operational processes with our local departments of health and taken their direction on prioritization of eligible groups. Additionally, we have made vaccination demographic data available to demonstrate our compliance, illustrate our good intent and to clear up any misconceptions that we are misusing our vaccine allotments. As is the case with other large health providers, it is commonplace for a department of health to inquire about any concerns flagged to them. This is in no way unique or specific to One Medical, and we have not been informed by any of our department of health partners that there are current or pending investigations underway.
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