Non-frontline workers getting vaccines before health care workers in SoCal

A local health care worker is frustrated after she claims non-frontline workers got the COVID-19 vaccine at Southern California Hospital in Culver City while she was denied three times.

Katie Brockert, a Home Health Physical Therapist, said she first went to the hospital on December 23.

"Everybody else who was standing in line, some of them were teenagers and not health care workers, were able to get the vaccine and I wasn't," she said.

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

Brockert said she was told by a hospital staff member to try again the next day, December 24. She arrived at the hospital with her credentials but said she was given a different set of instructions from a staff worker that day.

"I was turned away even though I had the credentials to show them," she said.

Brockert said she tried one more time later that day, but was denied again. She said she went to the hospital because other medical colleagues informed her they were able to get vaccinated at that location by showing their credentials.

"While they [her colleagues] were waiting in line, they were told by some of the people in line that they were family members of doctors affiliated with the hospital or friends and that they weren't checking people's credentials. It seemed like a free for all and no one seemed to have one set of instructions they were giving," said Brockert.

Brockert called the experience "frustrating."

"People like me who have direct access and work directly with patients weren't getting prioritized and friends and family were getting vaccinated and I was turned away three times," she said.

A spokesperson from Southern California Hospital released a statement:

"After picking up our allocation of non-ultra-frozen vaccine from the designated distribution center last week, upon returning to Southern California Hospital Culver City, staff quickly realized we’d received more vaccine than we have employees at the hospital.  

The excess could not be returned to the distribution center.  Instructions provided with the vaccine indicated that the vaccine has a shelf life of 5 days when removed from the approved freezer.  The distribution center indicated the vaccine was not to be stored in dry ice or transport freezers; all the vaccine had to be used within five days or go to waste.

After vaccinating all hospital staff that requested the vaccine, we then contacted physician providers who treat patients at the hospital, as well as local first responders including police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians to inform them of the vaccine’s availability at our location.

Additionally, some public service workers also received the vaccine.  The allegation regarding staff family members being invited by the hospital to receive the vaccine is untrue.

This decisive action ensured we achieved our goal of vaccinating all frontline staff as quickly as possible and prevented the waste of valuable vaccine."

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health since opened multiple vaccination sites for healthcare workers to get the vaccine. Brockert was able to get vaccinated on January 2 and will get her second shot at the end of the month.

"Of course, I want everyone to have access to the vaccine, but right now there's a reason why we're prioritizing health care workers and essential workers because we do have much more exposure than other people," said Brockert.

Brockert said she is at times caring for patients with Covid-19 unknowingly.

"Part of my job is I go into skilled nursing facilities which as you know, the virus has been rampant and affected so many of them. There could be patients I see who don't know if they have tested positive so it's really a gamble every time I go to patients' homes or facilities because you don't know so it's very important that I get the vaccine and medical workers like me get the vaccine," she said.

Dodger Stadium will transform from a testing site to a vaccination site for healthcare workers by Friday.

Brockert hopes more sites will open soon and the process will be easier.

"I hope that more sites become available for our health care workers and that more information is given out via the news about when and where these new sites are. You can't just let anybody get the vaccine. There's a reason why there are different tiers," Brockert said.

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