Several patients at a Virginia Kroger clinic received an empty shot instead of COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine distribution

A Virginia Kroger gave several people “empty” shots that were supposed to contain vaccines for COVID-19, according to ABC 8News.

The healthcare professional who gave the shots to less than 10 people believed that the syringes had been previously filled by a colleague before the appointments started, a spokesperson for Kroger told 8News.

At first, the company told outlets 8News and CBS 6 that the syringes contained saline but later clarified that they were completely empty. That risks pumping air into people’s veins that can cause air embolisms and block blood flow.

Read more: The 4 things the US is doing wrong in the fight against COVID-19, and what we should be doing instead

“All impacted customers were contacted and have received their COVID-19 vaccine. We thank these customers for their understanding and have apologized for their inconvenience,” a spokesperson for Kroger told Insider.

The clinic is investigating the matter to prevent a similar situation from recurring in the future, and the Virginia Department of Health is aware of the incident, they said.

The retail chain aims to double its vaccine capacity to 1 million doses per week.

As of March 13, about 20% of the US population has received at least one dose of the vaccine for COVID-19, Bloomberg data show. More Americans have received vaccines than have tested positive for the virus, that report said. At the current rate, it will only take about 5 months until 75% of the US population, enough for “normalcy,” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, is inoculated.

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Healthcare company One Medical accused of allowing people to skip the line and get COVID-19 vaccines early

vaccine wars
  • The publicly-traded company let people skip the vaccine line, Forbes and NPR reported.
  • NPR reports that One Medical said in documents that it was “not policing” the vaccination process.
  • One Medical told Insider it does not “knowingly disregard eligibility guidelines.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

One Medical, a healthcare concierge company distributing COVID-19 vaccines, has been letting ineligible people skip ahead in line to receive a shot, according to reporting by Forbes and NPR

Leah Rosenbaum at Forbes first reported earlier in February that employees alleged the medical startup had flouted state guidelines on who can receive vaccines. NPR confirmed the report in a piece published Wednesday that cited leaked documents.

NPR found that people with connections to One Medical’s leadership were set up with vaccine appointments despite local health departments declaring them ineligible. 

Forbes also reported that, in Los Angeles County, where providers are required to confirm patients’ eligibility, One Medical allowed people who claimed they were healthcare workers to get the vaccine without verifying their credentials.

NPR reported that One Medical offered all its staff vaccines, including staff members who never saw patients. The process for signing up for an appointment, NPR further reported, permitted people who would not have been eligible under county guidelines to book a slot, while some healthcare workers were relegated to a wait list. 

NPR said it reviewed documents by One Medical leadership advising practitioners that the company is “not policing” who gets vaccines. 

The company told NPR that it “does not allow for ineligible persons to be vaccinated knowingly.” In a statement to Forbes earlier in February, the company said that it “is equally dedicated to both its adherence to state and local department of health vaccine eligibility guidelines and to the judicious use of each and every vaccine dose we have been allocated.”

In a statement to Insider, One Medical pushed back against NPR’s findings, calling it “biased” and “incomplete.”

“Any assertions that we broadly and knowingly disregard eligibility guidelines are in direct contradiction to our actual approach to vaccine administration,” a One Medical spokesperson told Insider. “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.”

The vaccine distribution model in the US has rankled some rich and well-connected Americans who don’t want to wait to get shots. Insider reported earlier in February that some wealthy Americans are using their connections to get vaccines early. 

NPR reported that Washington State stopped providing One Medical with vaccines in response to a complaint against One Medical.  

The business model of the San Francisco-based company is an annual subscription service that then allows customers to pair up with a primary care physician. Insider reported that the concierge service charges a $200 annual fee and bills insurance companies directly for primary care visits. 

One Medical went public last year in a buzzy IPO that closed its first day of trading at $22.07 per share for a valuation of $2.7 billion, according to Insider

With the pandemic driving growth in telehealth and healthcare, the company’s value has grown. Its stock hit $58.70 earlier in February, but has since gone down to $52.13 as of Wednesday.

You can read One Medical’s full response to NPR’s report below.

We are disappointed to see NPR report in such a biased and incomplete fashion. This report includes very little of the information One Medical provided to this journalist regarding our policies, protocols and clinical philosophy and instead relies on truncated excerpts of internal communications where important and healthy dialogue occur between our staff members regarding how to enforce and improve upon our processes. This story 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. This type of reporting is frustrating and arguably does a disservice to all, as it lacks the context of the complexities and challenges associated with the vaccine rollout especially in the early stages and can be disheartening to our team members who have worked tirelessly days, nights and weekends to administer vaccines. That said, 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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