Frontline workers protest at Stanford after hospital distributed vaccine to administrators

The hospital was accused of prioritising administrators over some medical residents and nurses in first wave of vaccine distribution

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Saturday 19 December 2020 00:46
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Medical residents and nurses from Stanford Medical Center held a protest on Friday following the hospital choosing to vaccinate some staff members who don’t interact with coronavirus patients over other frontline workers.

Video footage from the San Francisco Chronicle showed hospital workers gathering in a common area of Stanford Medical Center with signs as they shouted chants.

“How many residents? Seven,” the workers chanted through the hospital. Seven represented the number of medical residents who have so far received a coronavirus vaccine in the hospital out of the 1,349 employed.

These frontline workers accused the hospital of prioritising administrators and physicians who don’t interact with coronavirus over them during vaccine distribution.

The demonstration was largely made up with medical residents who were excluded from the first wave of staff offered coronavirus vaccines, but they made it clear nurses and other frontline workers were also excluded.

“This is not just about the residents … we stand here to represent our nurses … we are here to back them … our respiratory therapists, our environmental services workers, food staff, everyone,” one medical resident is heard saying to the crowd.

Medical residents were asked who among the hospital’s administration made the decision to exclude some frontline workers from receiving the vaccine. These residents said they did not know who made the decision.

Several departments at Stanford Medical Center tweeted their support for the frontline workers who protested at how vaccines were being distributed.

“The Department of Urology faculty find the algorithm that led to the exclusion of residents (from all services) in the first wave of vaccinations at Stanford appalling. Our faculty have volunteered their appointments go [to] trainees on the front lines to make this right,” The Stanford Medical Center Department of Urology tweeted on Friday.

Dr Joy Wu, a physician-scientist in endocrinology at Stanford, also tweeted her support of the protest.

“The Stanford vaccine algorithm failed to prioritize housestaff,” she wrote. “We @StanfordDeptMed faculty stand with @StanfordMedRes.”

Stanford’s Department of Medicine faculty, division chiefs, and other doctors have all volunteered “to wait until all house staff have been vaccinated” unless they are “high-risk”, Dr Wu said.

Healthcare workers and people living in long-term care facilities started to receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Monday after it received emergency use authorisation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised for those two groups to receive the vaccine first, as healthcare workers are most at-risk to come in contact with the novel virus and high deaths rates were seen in long-term care facilities. But it was largely left up to the state and individual hospital systems to distribute the vaccine doses how they wanted once they received them. 

Stanford Medical Center said in a statement to The Independent: “We take complete responsibility for the errors in the execution of our vaccine distribution plan.  Our intent was to develop an ethical and equitable process for distribution of the vaccine. We apologize to our entire community, including our residents, fellows, and other frontline care providers, who have performed heroically during our pandemic response. We are immediately revising our plan to better sequence the distribution of the vaccine.”

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