Physicians at California's Stanford Medical Center accused administrators on Friday of prioritizing non-frontline health care workers for the coronavirus vaccine instead of those who work directly with COVID-19 patients.
Residents, nurses, fellows and other hospital staff gathered at the Palo Alto medical campus to protest the university, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Some held signs reading "Stanford has 5,000 doses. How many to frontline workers?" "Frontline workers Need Protection" and "Health care heroes, back of the line."
"I'm here because we were promised, multiple times that we would be vaccinated in the first wave," Dr. Daniel Hernandez, an emergency room resident, told the newspaper. "They are making us volunteer in the COVID ICU, without extra pay on top of covering our own work."
In an address to the crowd, Stanford Health President and CEO David Entwhistle acknowledged the mishap.
"We'll correct it. We know that it's wrong," he said.
In a letter to Stanford officials, nurses and residents said only seven of them were included in the first round of vaccinations, of which 5,000 were expected beginning Friday. The protesters said those selected include nurses treating outpatients, orthopedic surgeons and a dermatologist.
"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," a statement from Stanford Health to Fox News reads. "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."
Some residents said they know senior faculty working from home since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. who were selected for vaccination, according to the newspaper.
The error was caught earlier this week, but not corrected, they said.
"It is important for us to articulate to you that at this time, residents are hurt, disappointed, frustrated, angry and feel a deep sense of distrust towards the hospital administration given the sacrifices we have been making and the promises that were made to us," the letter said.
The protesters said officials blamed an error on an algorithm, which was intended to ensure the vaccine is distributed equally.
"Residents and fellows were essentially not included in the first round of vaccines despite working 80+ hours per week in the hospital treating COVID-19 patients," Dr. Earth Hasassri, a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow, tweeted.
A group of medical and public health experts that advise the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will weigh in this weekend on who should be vaccinated once frontline medical workers have received injections.
Some panelists are leaning toward essential workers — grocery store clerks, bus drivers and other employees who can't work from home – while others say people 65 and older should be next.