On Thursday, teachers and staff at Los Gatos Union School District received a tantalizing offer in their emails: a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of schedule.
According to investigative news outlet San Jose Spotlight, Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Gatos offered district Superintendent Paul Johnson and staff the vaccine as a “gesture” of kindness after the district raised funds for a program to provide frontline workers meals.
“The COO of the hospital says we can access the appointments … and has cleared [Los Gatos schools] staff to sign up under the healthcare buttons,” the email from Johnson to district staff obtained by Spotlight read. Educators are part of Phase 1B in California and Santa Clara County, behind frontline staff, nursing home residents and those 65 and older.
Teachers, per the email, were told to impersonate health care workers despite the threat of perjury — with the approval of COO Gary Purushotham — in order to obtain access to the vaccine. “Remember to register under healthcare initially,” Johnson’s note read.
The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment from SFGATE. Schools in the district are closed for in-person learning.
Now, Santa Clara County is withholding vaccines from the hospital after the offer was extended and an estimated 65 doses were offered to district teachers and staffers.
Per a letter from the county obtained by SFGATE, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s COVID-19 vaccine officer, said that the hospital’s actions “are inconsistent with both the letter and spirit” of California’s vaccine protocol. It also created confusion, he alleged, “causing other educators to understandably but incorrectly expect” vaccinations.
Santa Clara County will provide second doses for those who received their initial shot at Good Samaritan. But “any additional doses,” he warned, will be withheld “unless and until Good Samaritan provides sufficient assurances it will follow state and county direction on vaccine eligibility.”
Good Samaritan currently has just over 6,500 first and second vaccine doses, according to a county dashboard.
Fenstersheib also suggested that the vaccine was offered as something of a quid pro quo, rewarding “employees of a school district that had provided fundraising that assisted Good Samaritan employees, rather than prioritizing older educators or those from areas of the county with high prevalence of COVID-19.”
In a follow-up email sent to teachers obtained by Spotlight, Johnson, the superintendent, denied any allegations of quid pro quo.
Good Samaritan CEO Joe DeSchryver, in an apology posted Saturday in which he said the hospital was “in error,” explained that the decision to expand their vaccine distribution past state and county recommendations was done in order “to avoid wasting supply that was already thawed.”
But by that point, Spotlight reported, the hospital barely had sufficient doses for hospital workers, other frontline workers and individuals 75 years or older.
“We are committed to working with the county on a plan to assure we have clarity and are adhering to the state and county guidelines on vaccine eligibility, which we have done so prior to this incident,” DeSchryver added. “Additionally, we are reviewing our processes and systems to ensure this does not happen again.”
The hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment from SFGATE.
As of Monday, California has dispensed over 2.3 million vaccines — 47% of its currently available doses.
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