Health care workers and nursing home residents and staff members form Phase 1 of New York State vaccine distribution plan. Photo by The New York Times

Hospital workers in the US have started to ‘turn against each other’ to get the COVID vaccine.

Iran Press/America: At New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, one of the most highly regarded hospitals in New York City, a rumor spread last week that the line for the coronavirus vaccine on the ninth floor was unguarded and anyone could stealthily join and receive the shot.

Under the rules, the most exposed health care employees were supposed to go first, but soon those from lower-risk departments, including a few who spent much of the pandemic working from home, were getting vaccinated.

The lapse, which occurred within 48 hours of the first doses arriving in the city, incited anger among staff members — and an apology from the hospital.

“I am so disappointed and saddened that this happened,” a top executive at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, Craig Albanese, wrote in an email to staff, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The arrival of thousands of vaccine doses in New York City hospitals last week was greeted with an outpouring of hope from doctors and nurses who had worked through the devastating first wave in March and April. But for now, the vaccine is in very short supply, and some hospitals seem to have stumbled through the rollout.

Most of the vaccinations in the New York region to date have involved hospitals giving shots to their own employees, a relatively easy process compared with what is to come as part of the largest vaccination initiative in the nation since the 1940s.

The dynamics playing out at hospitals in New York City may be emblematic of what may happen across the country in the near future, when all adults will be given a place in the vaccination line by either the government or their employers.

In interviews for this article, more than half a dozen doctors and nurses at New York area hospitals said they were upset at how the vaccine was being distributed at their institutions. They described what had happened to The New York Times but most asked that their names not be used because hospitals have shown a willingness to fire or punish employees for speaking to the news media during the pandemic.

Health care workers and nursing home residents and staff members form what is called Phase 1 of New York State’s vaccine distribution plan. About two million people are in this group, and the state’s initial allocation of the vaccine most likely means that Phase 2, which includes essential workers, won’t begin until late January. (Widespread distribution isn’t likely to begin until the summer, officials have said.)

But the state has left it mostly to each health care institution to devise a vaccination plan during the first phase. In the first week of vaccinations, many hospitals chose a wide variety of health care workers — nurses, doctors, housekeepers — from emergency rooms and intensive care units to be the first at their institutions to receive the vaccine. But in the days after the celebrations accompanying the first shots, the moods at hospitals have shifted.

At some places, doctors and nurses who work in dedicated COVID-19 units were not included in the priority group.


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