A Washington state hospital is apologizing for giving deep-pocket donors special access to the COVID-19 vaccine — even though appointments for the public were reportedly booked through March.
Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue acknowledged Wednesday that roughly 100 donors were included in a list of 4,000 emailed invitations to the hospital’s community, including volunteers, retired nurses, physicians and employees.
“We recognize we made a mistake by including a subset of our donors and by not adopting a broader outreach strategy to fill these appointments, and we apologize,” hospital officials said in a statement. “Our intent and commitment has always been to administer every vaccine made available to us safely, appropriately, and efficiently.”
The Seattle Times reported Tuesday that the hospital’s chief development officer sent emails on Friday to 110 “major donors” who gave $10,000 or more to the hospital system indicating that shots were available. An email provided recipients with an access code to get the “by invite”-only inoculation, according to the report.
The emails were sent as Overlake’s registration site was booked through March. Access to the invite-only clinic was later shut down by the hospital after getting a call from a staffer from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, the Seattle Times reported.
Tom DeBord, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said the invites were sent after the hospital’s scheduling system crashed.
“We’re under pressure to vaccinate people who are eligible and increase capacity,” DeBord told the newspaper. “In hindsight, we could certainly look back and say this wasn’t the best way to do it.”
Access to the exclusive slots was shut down Tuesday, according to the report.
Inslee, meanwhile, took aim at the hospital Tuesday during an unrelated news conference.
“If in fact they were giving preference to some VIP list, that’s not the way to do it,” the governor told reporters. “That is not acceptable for us. We need to give everybody a fair shot at the vaccine … We’ve got to maintain public credibility in the system. I’m told that whatever they were doing has stopped, and that’s good news.”