After the development of two highly effective vaccines by the end of 2020 — one from Pfizer/BioNTech and the other from Moderna, both with approximately 95% efficacy after two doses — focus has now fallen on their distribution. While average Americans are forced to wait for their chance to be immunized, members of the entertainment and media industries are using their power and influence to wrestle their way to the front of the line.
“Numerous high-flying executives and dealmakers have been cycling through private physicians and concierge services to receive one of the two established COVID-19 vaccines on the market,” reported Variety. “Others have been tapping their vast resources in a mad dash to get vaccinated as the government, especially in Hollywood’s native California, churns through a sluggish rollout.”
While “some efforts to receive the vaccine ahead of schedule do not violate any laws,” the article continues, “they have raised questions of ethics and good taste” among the liberal elite.
“It’s also clear that power and wealth, which allow many in the Hollywood community to afford on-demand doctors and access private planes to engage in vaccine tourism, have enabled them to get shots more safely and efficiently than average citizens,” the piece added. “It illustrates the gaping chasm that exists between haves and have nots in this country when it comes to healthcare.”
As vaccine distribution strategies have stuttered in recent weeks, the desire for access to immunization has “led to desperation.” According to Variety, Dr. Robert Huizenga of Beverly Hills said that such desperation had resulted in offers of bribes, including from members of the entertainment industry.
“We’ve been offered bribes. We see people taking planes to every location. We’ve seen people try to transiently get into the healthcare profession or on staff at nursing homes, so they qualify for an early vaccine,” said Dr. Huizenga.
Furthermore, “hundreds of elite executives, agents and stars are mightily coming down on their top-tier healthcare providers in L.A.’s Westside neighborhoods,” such as UCLA’s executive health program, which reportedly “requires a fee and donation to UCLA Medical Center, which costs in the $15,000 to $25,000 range on an annual basis,” with its program director Dr. Robert Ansell being “inundated” with requests for information.
While some notable celebrities have chosen to wait in line after booking appointments — such as Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve Martin — others have decided not to “navigate California’s byzantine vaccination process” by engaging in alternative tactics such as “vaccine tourism” with private flights to Florida. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “veteran entertainment insiders Richard Parsons and Allen Shapiro are among those who traveled to the Sunshine State for vaccine rollout offered to those 65 and older.”
The attempt to leverage wealth or power in order to gain access to the scarce vaccine is being witnessed across the country, with NYU School of Medicine’s director of the division of medical ethics, Dr. Art Caplan, describing such actions as “bad behavior” which “should not be condoned.”
“We’ve got 91-year-olds waiting, health care workers waiting,” Dr. Caplan added. “People who are wealthy can easily find ways to quarantine, mask, and stay isolated for another month or two, and more vaccine will become available.”
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