Why some hospital PR executives and discharged staff received COVID-19 vaccines before frontline staff

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TORONTO – While thousands of frontline workers remain vulnerable to COVID-19, a surprising group of people have been vaccinated before them.
Among the less than 1% of Canadians vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, those who have been vaccinated include researchers, public relations officials and hospital staff on discharge.

Despite insistence from health officials that rare vaccines would be reserved first for populations most at risk, including healthcare workers in COVID-19 wards and long-term care homes , staff who have little or no interaction with patients have already received the blow.

Last week, a public relations manager at an Ontario health center tweeted a photo of himself being photographed, a story that sparked a spate of condemnation on social media, some users calling it “shameful” “skipping the queue”.

As of Monday afternoon, approximately 339,000 Canadians had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or just 0.892 percent of the population.

In the weeks leading up to Health Canada’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, there was much debate about who would be the first to line up, with each province developing its own standards based on federal guidelines. But since the deployment began nearly a month ago, officials have come under fire for being slow to put needles in their arms.

The need for speed may play a role in why people at low risk have already been vaccinated, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Anna Banerji, who is not surprised Canadians are upset by the so-called “queue jump”.

“It bothers a lot of people who work at high risk in emergency departments… because it doesn’t feel right,” she told CTVNews.ca over the phone.

But it may be too late to tackle the logistics of “eliminating” some staff from large hospital networks who are trying to inoculate more people faster, she said.

“When you try to get the vaccine out as early as possible, there are probably low risk people who will end up in the queue. You can try to [appeal] in the best nature of people to say that those most at risk should come first, ”she added.

But once taken out of the freezer and thawed, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are due to be used on the same day, so some health centers administering injections have resorted to massive email registrations.

SUBSCRIBE BY EMAIL

In Toronto, the University Health Network, which controls the largest vaccine dose band in Ontario, recently opened up its vaccination program to staff outside its immediate network to include the Hospital for Sick Children, Canada’s best pediatric hospital. .

Last week, SickKids staff were encouraged to sign up for a time slot at a web link provided by email using the specified login credentials, a staff member told CTVNews.ca. Among those who signed up and received a dose of Pfizer were research staff and home nurses on maternity leave. Later in the week, the hospital network ran out of doses.

UHN sent an email on Sunday about a new set of vaccines available at a nearby health center, encouraging staff to sign up. In a tweet three days earlier, UHN President and CEO Kevin Smith said the network urgently needed vaccines, a message that prompted an Ontario emergency doctor to challenge the network’s efforts to immunize non-priority staff.

“Please tell me that you don’t need vaccines urgently to vaccinate office staff and researchers while your frontline colleagues in the community who see COVID every day have yet to see a dose.” , wrote Laura Shoots, director of emergency quality improvement at Brant Community Healthcare System.

In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, a spokesperson for UHN said the network had opened up its vaccination program to staff “in contact with patients” but that “there was no master patient contact list ”in the five hospitals that are part of the vaccination efforts.

“People who do not face patients or who work from home have been told to wait. We know some people have chosen not to wait, which is unfortunate, ”wrote Gillian Howard, UHN vice president of public affairs and communications.

“NOTHING WILL BE PERFECT”

Less than a month after the start of the mass vaccination effort, Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist, said he was ready to leave some leeway to the hospitals responsible for vaccinating hundreds of thousands of staff from First line.

“I give the institutions a little credit,” he told CTVNews.ca Monday. “It’s incredibly difficult to try to interview, prioritize, treat and work with every person who they think needs the vaccine.”

In hindsight, it would have been appropriate for institutions to develop a hierarchical roster of staff, he said. In the absence of such a list, the e-mail registration system might be more appropriate than attempting to sort staff on the move.

“Leaving it to the honor system is the best way,” he said. “But recognizing that when you ask people what their risks are, they’re going to put themselves at a higher risk knowing what’s to come.” [the vaccine]. »

The difficult storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine may have played into the inability to vaccinate large groups of people outside of urban centers, Chagla said. But as new vaccines arrive in the coming weeks, there may be more opportunities to vaccinate high-risk people than officials always wanted.

“Maybe it’s time to invite another high-risk group into the clinic for the vaccine that is not affiliated with the hospital. Or an area around the hospital in a smaller rural setting, ”he said.

“Nothing will be perfect,” he added. “There is something to be said for some oversight of how hospitals administer their vaccines.”

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