The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) confirmed to the Research Unit on Wednesday that it stopped assigning COVID-19 vaccines to One Medical, one of its main partners in the city’s vaccine implementation plan.
One Medical is a membership-based healthcare practice – anyone can join. After partnering with SFDPH, it said it administered vaccinations to its own eligible participants and members of the public who were referred by the county as temporary members of One Medical.
Prior to receiving this information, the Research Unit received reports from individuals paying the standard $ 200 membership fee just to take advantage of One Medical’s easy-to-book vaccine appointment system. In some cases, people said they did not live in San Francisco. Some said they already had other healthcare providers.
The San Francisco move comes on the same day that NPR released an investigation that said the “high-end medical provider … administered COVID-19 vaccines to people deemed ineligible … including people with connections to leaders of the company and clients of its medical concierge service “.
In an email to the Investigation Unit, SFDPH said Monday that it ordered One Medical to return 270 vials of the Pfizer vaccine containing 1,620 doses so the county can redistribute them to other providers. This came after the county directed One Medical to provide a full report of the vaccinations administered.
After reviewing One Medical’s response, the county said the organization had vaccinated people who were “under the age of 65 who self-identified as Phase 1a healthcare workers, but were not IHSS workers, DPH referrals or One Medical healthcare worker employees.
“Due to this and our inability to verify the 1a status of this cohort, DPH has stopped assigning doses to One Medical ”. wrote a county spokesperson.
In an interview earlier Wednesday about the challenges One Medical and other providers face when trying to enforce vaccine eligibility requirements, Medical Director Andrew Diamond said there are concerns about over-application.
“There are many people who have the most urgent need to get vaccinated and would not really have the first idea of how to carry something. [for verification] … And by being too focused on that requirement, we run the risk of vaccinating far fewer people than we really need at the moment, ”said Dr. Diamond.
In a statement Wednesday evening, a One Medical spokesperson wrote: “Those whom we have vaccinated within the unspecified ‘number’ of doses in question from SFDPH have specifically attested that they were eligible healthcare workers … We had permission from the SFDPH to vaccinate this group and we were transparent with SF DPH about our process and protocols for doing so. “
One Medical was allowed to withhold enough doses to provide second injections to people who received their first dose, the county said. The SF-based provider said it hopes to continue offering vaccination services.
Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter for the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit. Email him about this story or others at [email protected]