Update on 12/31/20 at 1:05 p.m.: The City of San Diego has clarified that all SDFD firefighters are EMTs and many are paramedics. Both EMTs and paramedics fall under phase 1A of the vaccine rollout. Phase 1B includes police officers and firefighters.
SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Sharp HealthCare is being called into question after more than 300 San Diego police officers and Fire-Rescue workers got the COVID-19 vaccine due to a hospital surplus, some out of turn.
Sharp HealthCare is defending its actions and reporting that it made the right decision under circumstances where the vaccine doses were set to expire.
San Diego County officials confirmed with ABC10 News that the County was made aware on Tuesday morning that Sharp HealthCare had 300 vaccines due to expire, so hospital staff directed officers to come in and be vaccinated. The County reported that Sharp HealthCare did not notify the County in advance, or else the County would have directed Sharp HealthCare to vaccinate phase 1A eligible recipients, like healthcare workers and nursing home residents.
Police officers and firefighters are considered essential workers which are included in phase 1B of the vaccine distribution plan. That phase has not started. However, the city later clarified that all San Diego firefighters are also EMTs, some are also paramedics, qualifying them for phase 1A.
A spokesperson with Sharp HealthCare confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that on Monday at about 7:30 p.m. it did not contact the County for a directive on what to do with its vaccine surplus because it was after-hours. Instead, the spokesperson said that Sharp HealthCare reported that it quickly moved forward with a plan to vaccinate first responders, the majority being SDPD officers, but also some firefighters. The spokesperson said that they could not have foreseen having such a surplus in inventory of the vaccine.
The spokesperson characterized it as a win-win in that Sharp HealthCare was able to use the vaccines before they expired, and hundreds of officers were vaccinated. The spokesperson added that the state allows for hospitals to deliver the vaccine to lower priority groups when doses are about to expire.
County officials reported on Tuesday afternoon that the County has now asked the state to direct hospitals in similar positions to notify and coordinate with the county first before jumping to a different priority tier.
ABC10 News reached out to SDPD for comment. A representative with the City of San Diego sent the following statement.
“As the health partner of the City, Sharp Healthcare reached out around 7:30 p.m. yesterday to offer 300 free vaccinations to the City that were set to expire at 9 a.m. today. Knowing time was of the essence to use these valuable resources, the vaccinations were administered to first responders from the City’s Fire-Rescue and Police Departments who work closely with the public every day. There were approximately 120 vaccines administered to EMT/Paramedics from the Fire-Rescue Department and 186 administered to Police Officers. The City of San Diego recognizes the importance of keeping our public safety personnel healthy and will continue to work collaboratively with all our partners.”