Rich People Are Trying To Use Their Money To Cut In Line For The Coronavirus Vaccine

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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Wealthy people are trying to use their money and connections to cut in line ahead of vulnerable populations for the coronavirus vaccine, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Doctors who offer personalized concierge medical care report receiving hundreds of calls a day from their clients, who often include celebrities and executives, asking to pay top dollar for expedited access to the vaccine, according to the LA Times.

In California, the first groups in line for the Pfizer vaccine are frontline healthcare workers and elderly residents of nursing homes and other assisted living facilities. But wealthy people who aren’t in those demographics are depending on expensive concierge practices that they pay up to $25,000 a year for a spot closer to the top of the list. 

MARTINEZ, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: Frontline healthcare worker Gilberto Garcia receives a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center on December 15, 2020 in Martinez, California. Contra Costa Health Services received 9,750 COVID-19 vaccinations and have commenced vaccinating frontline healthcare workers. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Boutique practices are following public health guidelines in determining who will get the vaccine first, but its clients are already ahead of most people because these practices have the special freezers that can store the vaccine, among other resources. The vaccine isn’t available to private buyers yet, so until it is, doctors have had to tell their wealthy patients that they’ll have to wait.

Dr. Jeff Tolls, who has admitting privileges at a hospital that has the vaccine, told the LA Times that a patient asked him whether a $25,000 donation would help them skip ahead of high-priority groups, to which Tolls answered no.

The ambiguity of what qualifies as an “essential industry” or underlying health conditions could also lead to the wealthy with connections arguing that they fit into these groups. While the common understanding of “essential workers,” who receive priority in vaccinations, is people who work service-industry jobs, an executive at an essential company could argue that they should also be prioritized, bioethicist Glenn Ellis told the LA Times.

“With enough money and influence, you can make a convincing argument about anything,” Ellis said.

People with influence may also use their connections to gain access to the vaccine by making requests to friends who may lead pharmaceutical companies or hospitals to give them “V.I.P. treatment.”

In California’s entertainment industry, doctors tell the LA Times that celebrities and executives are tasking their assistants with searching for ways to access the vaccine much sooner. 

“Their people are calling me literally every day,” an anonymous doctor told the LA Times.

Syringes wand vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered to front-line health care workers under an emergency use authorization at a drive up vaccination site from Renown Health in Reno, Nevada on December 17, 2020. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) vaccine advisory panel voted to recommend that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine be authorized for emergency use Thursday, clearing the way for its approval and distribution nationwide. It is expected to be approved Friday, which would help alleviate the demand for the vaccine as the government moved forward with Pfizer’s vaccine rollout. 

The Trump administration expects roughly 20 million Americans to be vaccinated before the end of 2020, and state governments will get the final say on who is first in line, according to New York Magazine. (RELATED: Maryland Gives DC More COVID-19 Vaccination Doses For Health Care Workers Than The Federal Government)