In a number of Southern California Concierge Service medical practices, doctors say they have received calls from well-to-do clients asking if they can get early access to the extremely limited supply of vaccine doses in exchange for a financial contribution to a hospital or charity.
Dr. Jeff Toll, whose internal medicine practice enjoys recognition privileges at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said one patient offered to donate $ 25,000 to the hospital in exchange for an early vaccination. The Toll Clinic serves wealthy clients including CEOs and entertainment personalities, but the doctor said he is telling his patients that they must also wait as the first round of vaccinations is distributed to those most in need of protection.
Earlier this week, California received 327,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, giving the first vaccinations to frontline health care workers fighting the virus that has caused more than 22,000 deaths statewide since the start of the pandemic.
“I think one of the difficult things is for the doctors who take care of these powerful people to be able to say, ‘No, you have to wait,'” said Toole. “These people don’t usually have to wait.”
Toole said his practice has applied to California to become a vaccine distribution center for his clients, and he has already purchased special ultra-cold freezers in anticipation of storing Pfizer vaccine vials.
“They wanted it yesterday.”
Dr. David Nazarian, of My Concierge MD in Beverly Hills, said a number of his clients on the first list contact him, saying money is nothing if he helps them get vaccinated early.
“They wanted it yesterday,” Nazarian said. “We will stick to the rules but do our best to secure the vaccine and distribute it when it is available to us.”
The founder of Concierge MD LA, Dr Abe Malkin, said he has received over a hundred phone calls from people trying to get early access to initial doses.
According to Malkin, “I would say that between 5 to 10 percent of those people were willing to try to make some contributions to a charity to get themselves in line.”
Malkin’s practice has also applied to become a vaccine distributor but is focusing on the newly approved FDA-approved Moderna vaccine, which will be easier to handle as it does not have the same extreme temperature storage requirements as Pfizer dosing.
When it comes to compliance, California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that the state would be “very aggressive in making sure that those who have the means, and those with the power, don’t exclude those who deserve vaccines.”
“For those who think they can go forward, who think because they have the resources, or have relationships that allow them to do so,” Newsom said this month. “We’ll be watching that very closely.” .
“We will prioritize, and expect that everyone in the healthcare delivery system will adhere to the same ethical standards to truly give priority to those who need it most. The real heroes in this pandemic are the frontline healthcare workers, and these are the people we must protect. And we must prioritize moving forward. “