Cleveland Hospitals Stop Vaccinating Caregivers, Pivot To Older Population

A Cleveland Clinic health care worker receives the COVID-19 vaccine as part of Phase 1A distribution in Ohio. The Clinic has announced it will no longer vaccinate health care workers in order to move forward with the next phase, which includes patients over 80. [Erica Foreman / Cleveland Clinic]
A Cleveland Clinic health care worker receives the COVID-19 vaccine as part of Phase 1A distribution in Ohio. The Clinic has announced it will no longer vaccinate health care workers in order to move forward with the next phase, which includes patients over 80. [Erica Foreman / Cleveland Clinic]

Updated: 5:05 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021

A Cleveland Clinic nurse is concerned about changes to vaccine distribution plans in Ohio that no longer prioritize health workers.

Now that Cleveland hospitals have begun the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, some health care workers who did not get the vaccine will have to get in line with the general public – causing concern for those who work closely with COVID-19 patients and can no longer get vaccinated. 

Cleveland Clinic announced in a statement Wednesday that clinic employees who have not been vaccinated will now become eligible based on their age group, medical conditions and other factors. MetroHealth and University Hospitals will also stop vaccinating caregivers. 

A Cleveland Clinic registered nurse, who asked not to be identified out of fear of repercussions, said he is concerned about his safety. He became eligible to sign up for the vaccine at the end of December, because he works at the main campus and comes into direct contact with patients every day, but he had not been able to schedule his shot yet. 

He tried to sign up for several weeks, but all of the slots were taken, he said. Now, he has to wait even longer. 

“It makes me feel like our safety is disregarded,” he said.  

Over the weekend, sign-ups for vaccine appointments were removed from Cleveland Clinic’s internal scheduling system, he said. After calling the scheduling office, he learned anyone who had not scheduled an appointment as of Jan. 15 would no longer be able to get the vaccine because the hospital is moving on to the next priority group: its oldest patients. 

“As a hospital worker, I have the potential every day of working with known positive COVID patients. The possibility of me contracting it and then taking it into the community is higher than the average person,” he said.  

Front line health care workers were prioritized in Ohio's vaccine rollout and designated as Phase 1A, alongside first responders and members of congregate settings. The clinic and other hospitals started vaccinating workers the week of Dec. 15. The Clinic has vaccinated more than 29,000 of its caregivers, according to the statement. 

“We understand that many people are eager to receive their vaccine, which is an important step in controlling this pandemic. We continue to ask everyone for patience as this is a complex vaccination process that will take time,” the statement reads. 

The decision to stop vaccinating caregivers was based upon guidance from the state. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine encouraged hospitals to pivot to Phase 1B, which includes older adults over 65, even if they were not done vaccinating their caregivers in order to speed up the vaccination process. 

In a previous press conference, he told hospital officials to finish vaccinating their personnel by midnight Jan. 17. 

“We really need to move and we need to move to this age group,” DeWine said. 

The vaccine rollout has been plagued by supply chain issues, and DeWine said there just aren’t enough vaccines to get to everyone right away. 

It is not yet clear if health care workers who were interested in being vaccinated can sign up to get a shot through the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, which is still completing Phase 1A vaccinations. 

“Because there is more demand right now than supply across the state, we encourage caregivers to routinely check the state website or their county website for vaccine availability,” said Cleveland Clinic spokesperson Andrea Pacetti. 

But the Cleveland Clinic nurse said it is his understanding that those who were initially in Phase 1A, like himself, are not eligible for the vaccine at any location now.  

“We're not protected, when we should be ...  We've been fighting for almost exactly a year to kind of get to this point, and then we get to this point, and 'too bad, you have to wait,'" he said. 

MetroHealth and University Hospitals (UH) also began vaccinating their oldest patients this week. UH caregivers were given four weeks to sign up for the vaccine if they were interested, and all employees who registered by Jan. 16 will receive it, according to a UH spokesperson. 

Aultman Hospital in Canton, another hospital that began vaccinating health care workers in mid-December, has also stopped offering vaccines to its employees. Aultman employees were given a two-week deadline to schedule and receive the vaccine, which ended Jan. 15, according to a statement from the hospital system. 

“All employees who chose to receive the vaccine had an opportunity to do so,” according to the statement. 

 

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