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Councilmembers condemn preferential vaccine offerings by some area hospitals, request state prohibit such practices in legislation

Summary

In the wake of reports that three King County hospitals had offered special access to COVID-19 vaccines to donors and board members, the King County Council passed legislation Tuesday condemning the activity and requesting state lawmakers to prohibit such practices in the future.

Story

In the wake of reports that three King County hospitals had offered special access to COVID-19 vaccines to donors and board members, the King County Council passed legislation Tuesday condemning the activity and requesting state lawmakers to prohibit such practices in the future.

Sponsored by Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rod Dembowski, Dave Upthegrove, and Girmay Zahilay, the motion calls out local hospitals for offering special access to high-profile donors, volunteers and board members, and points to the existing inequities exacerbated by such practices.

“I was appalled to learn that some hospitals in our region were offering preferential treatment to donors, board members, families, friends and connected community members when it came to administering vaccines,” Kohl-Welles said. “I am pleased that the Council approved my motion, 2021-0086 that calls on Governor Inslee and the State Legislature to take steps to prohibit medical systems from distributing vaccines inequitably and giving preferential access to donors or board members or anyone who is not officially eligible.”

The motion speaks to such practices as not only unethical, but in complete contrast to the common medical oath to do no harm.

In response, the councilmembers asked that Gov. Jay Inslee issue an executive order on the matter and that the state Legislature take action to prevent inequitable access to vaccines.

“We’ve seen over the past few weeks that the vaccination rollout plan is complicated and can be incredibly difficult and frustrating to navigate for most people, especially for our most vulnerable populations, including many seniors, BIPOC and limited-English speaking populations and those who don’t have reliable access to technology,” Kohl-Welles added. “We’re relying on our health care partners to make vaccine administration equitable and accessible and prioritized for those with the highest levels of need. To not do so is unacceptable in King County. Special access is not to be tolerated!”

Additional quotes:

King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay: “Our job as government is to protect and provide for the most vulnerable people we serve. It is shameful to provide VIP access to life-saving treatment when the people dying are not the wealthiest and most connected. Especially when COVID-19 is disproportionately killing Black and Brown people, elders, low-income people, and people with disabilities and underlying conditions. Our focus and our work must be centered to serve those communities. Any organization that is vaccinating people based on VIP status and wealth should no longer receive the vaccine. Period.”

King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove: “At a time when low-income and communities of color are already being hit hardest by COVID-19, it is appalling that wealthy individuals are able to cheat the system to get a vaccine. We need to lead with our core value of equity and ensure that vaccine providers in King County prioritize the vulnerable rather than the rich.”

Contact the Council
Main phone:
206-477-1000
TTY/TDD:
206-296-1024
Email:
council@kingcounty.gov