Topeka hospital board, fundraisers get vaccine shots early

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Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Las Vegas. Makers of COVID-19 vaccines need everything to go right as they scale up from early-stage production to hundreds of millions of doses – and any little hiccup could cause a delay. (AP Photo/John Locher)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Members of the Stormont Vail Health board and its fundraising board received COVID-19 vaccinations during the first phase of the Kansas vaccination rollout, which was intended for people at greater risk for infection, hospital officials confirmed.

Phase 1 of the vaccination plan focused on nursing homes and health care workers. The state’s second phase includes assisted living centers, teachers, firefighters, police and others who risk exposure because they work closely with many people.

State health officials said fundraising boards were not part of Phase 1, and state and federal guidelines do not include hospital board members, The Kansas News Service reported.

Stormont Vail Health workers who see patients got the vaccinations first, spokesman Matt Lara said.

He said board members received the shots because they govern the hospital and its daily operations.

“For us, our team members include … our boards,” Lara said. “So, yes, the foundation board did receive the vaccine.”

He said state health officials agreed the hospital could give vaccines to its team.

A spokeswoman for the state health department told the Kansas News Service “we would direct you to the specific hospital for how they made the determination” to vaccinate board members.

Stormont Vail’s tax forms indicate that hospital board members spend an average of three hours a week on their duties, and that members of the Stormont Vail Foundation — the hospital’s fundraising group — work one hour a week.

Stormont Vail CEO Robert Kenagy said in an update this week that the hospital began Phase 2 on Monday by giving priority to those over the age of 74.

“We are in a situation currently where demand for the vaccine is greater than supply,” he wrote. “We are working diligently to get the vaccine supply we receive into the arms of our community members as safely and quickly as possible.”

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