King County Councilmembers condemn special access to COVID vaccine
After it was reported that a few King County hospitals offered special access to the COVID-19 vaccine to donors and board members, the King County Council passed legislation condemning the activity.
In the motion passed Tuesday, the council is also asking state lawmakers to prohibit such practices.
Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rod Dembowski, Dave Upthegrove, and Girmay Zahilay sponsored the motion, calling out local hospitals for offering this special access to high-profile donors, volunteers, and board members. They also point to the inequities exacerbated by these practices.
“I was appalled to learn that some hospitals in our region were offering preferential treatment to donors, board members, families, friends and connected community members when it came to administering vaccines,” Kohl-Welles said. “I am pleased that the Council approved my motion, 2021-0086 that calls on Governor Inslee and the State Legislature to take steps to prohibit medical systems from distributing vaccines inequitably and giving preferential access to donors or board members or anyone who is not officially eligible.”
The motion refers to the practices as not only unethical, but against the medical oath to do no harm.
“At a time when low-income and communities of color are already being hit hardest by COVID-19, it is appalling that wealthy individuals are able to cheat the system to get a vaccine,” Councilmember Upthegrove said in a written release. “We need to lead with our core value of equity and ensure that vaccine providers in King County prioritize the vulnerable rather than the rich.”
Right now, Washington state remains in Phase 1B, tier 1, of its vaccine rollout plan, which includes all people over the age of 65 and those 50 or older who live in a multi-generational household.
That’s in addition to those eligible in Phase 1A, including health care workers at high-risk for infection, first responders, people who live or work in long-term care facilities, and all other workers in health settings who are at risk of COVID-19.