Health care company One Medical gave COVID-19 vaccines to people who were ineligible under local guidelines, including friends and family of company leadership, NPR reported. Health departments in Washington state and California said they stopped distributing doses to One Medical after finding out that the company was not sticking to eligibility rules.
The company was given vaccine doses in a few states, including Washington and California. Internal messages obtained by NPR show that doctors raised concerns about patients jumping the line for vaccinations ahead of people who where higher priority for the shots. Now, Alameda County, California and the Washington State Department of Health have refused to give the company more doses.
In many states, people who are older or who have underlying health conditions can get vaccinated now; younger, healthy people still have to wait. One Medical did not check to see if people who signed up for vaccine appointments through its systems were actually eligible, staffers said.
“Why are young patients without health problems, on a trial membership ... allowed to book and receive a covid vaccine while healthcare workers are being waitlisted?” one medical professional asked in January in messages obtained by NPR.
One Medical, which was backed by Alphabet’s GV, offers primary care to members in around a dozen cities across the United States for a $199 annual fee. The company went public in January 2020; as of today, its market capitalization is $7 billion. The company told NPR that it doesn’t knowingly let people skip the line.
The company’s vaccine scheduling system did not ask people to confirm if they were eligible under local guidelines until January 14th, two weeks after One Medical started offering vaccines. Once it did ask, people who said they were not eligible could still book appointments. Blocking people from signing up would be too technologically difficult, the company said.
“Scanning schedules and cancelling appointments [for ineligible patients] is not recommended,” said Spencer Blackman, the director of clinical education at the company, in a message to staff obtained by NPR. Andrew Diamond, chief medical officer of One Medical, initially denied to NPR that staff were directed not to verify eligibility. Later, he said One Medical has communicated more clearly since then.
After receiving complaints, the Washington State Department of Health stopped distributing COVID-19 vaccines to One Medical. Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health warned One Medical that it would stop giving the company doses if it did not confirm patients’ vaccine eligibility. Alameda County, California said it did not give additional doses to One Medical after the company said it wanted to vaccinate people who were ineligible.