Hospitals Warned on VIP Vaccinations

(Associated Press) Authorities in Washington state are warning hospitals and other facilities giving coronavirus vaccinations not to give special access to some people, saying they will risk having their supplies of doses cut.

The state Health Department said in a statement Monday that “VIP scheduling, reserving doses for inequitable or exclusive access, and similar practices are banned and will not be tolerated.”

The Seattle Times has reported that three medical systems in the region gave special vaccine access to big donors or foundation members. Two of the hospital organizations acknowledged they made a mistake in prioritizing influential people.

The Health Department’s announcement says that if a vaccine provider is found to be giving out shots in an inequitable manner “we may reduce or stop allocations to that provider.”

White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt says the government awarded a $231-million contract to scale up production of a COVID-19 home test recently authorized by U.S. regulators.

For months, health experts have stressed the need for fast, widespread home testing so that people can screen themselves and avoid contact with others if they have an infection. But the vast majority of tests still require a nasal swab performed by a health worker that must be processed at high-tech laboratories.

The test kit from Australian manufacturer Ellume allows users to swab themselves at home and check their status in about 20 minutes. It’s one of only three tests that consumers can use themselves, and the only one available without a doctor’s prescription.

The White House is tamping down expectations for a potential boost in vaccine distribution if Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 shot is approved by federal regulators.

Andy Slavitt, the White House’s deputy COVID-19 coordinator, told reporters that the single-dose shot would undoubtedly help the Biden administration meet its goal of 300 million vaccinated Americans by the end of summer. But he says: “The expectation should not be that there’s an immediate, dramatic shift.”

The pharmaceutical company reported strong results for the efficacy of its vaccine on Friday and is expected to file for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in the coming days.

Johnson & Johnson is contracted to provide 100 million doses by the end of the second quarter.

Slavitt says he did not anticipate an even distribution, but that most doses “would come towards the end of that contract.”

The U.S. government says it won’t conduct immigration enforcement arrests at coronavirus vaccination sites around the country.

In a statement Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said vaccine sites will be considered “sensitive locations” and will not be targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents except in “extraordinary circumstances.”

DHS says it encourages everyone “regardless of immigration status” to get vaccinated when they are eligible under local rules.

ICE has previously included health care facilities as well as churches among the sensitive locations where arrests would generally not be carried out.