San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) confirmed to the Investigative Unit Wednesday it has stopped allocating COVID-19 vaccines to One Medical, one of its main partners in the city’s vaccine rollout plan.
One Medical is a membership-based healthcare practice – anyone can join. After partnering with SFDPH, it started administering vaccines to its own eligible participants and members of the public who were referred by the county as a temporary One Medical member.
In early February SFDPH allocated One Medical 9,450 doses, county data shows.
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Before receiving this information, the Investigative Unit received reports of people paying the standard $200 membership fee just to take advantage of One Medical’s easy-to-book vaccine appointment system. In some cases, the individuals said they did not live in San Francisco. Some said they already had other health care providers.
San Francisco’s move comes the same day NPR released an investigation saying the “high-end medical provider … administered COVID-19 vaccinations to people deemed ineligible … including people with connections to company leaders and customers of its concierge medical service.”
In an email to the Investigative Unit, SFDPH said on Monday it directed One Medical to return 270 vials of the Pfizer vaccine containing 1,620 doses so the county can redistribute them to other providers. This came after the county directed One Medical to provide a full accounting of its administered vaccines.
After reviewing One Medical’s response, the county said the organization had vaccinated people who were “under 65 who self-identified as Phase 1a Health Care Workers, but were not IHSS workers, DPH referrals, or One Medical healthcare worker employees.”
“Because of this and our inability to verify the 1a status of this cohort, DPH has stopped allocating doses to One Medical,” a county spokesperson wrote.
In addition to vaccinating a group of ineligible and non-verifiable patients the county said One Medical was reserving 984 doses for walk-ins and 636 doses for an "Oracle Park mass vaccination launch." Neither were authorized by SFDPH.
In an interview earlier Wednesday about the challenges One Medical and other providers face when trying to enforce vaccine eligibility requirements, Chief Medical Officer Andrew Diamond said there is concern about over-enforcement.
“There are a lot of people who are in the most dire need of vaccination and would really not have the first idea how to upload something [for verification] … and by being overly-focused on that requirement, we risk vaccinating far fewer people than we really need to at this point of time,” Dr. Diamond said.
In a statement late Wednesday, a One Medical spokesperson wrote, "Those whom we have vaccinated within the unspecified 'number' of doses in question from the SFDPH have specifically attested that they were eligible healthcare workers...We had permission from the SFDPH to vaccinate this group and were transparent with SFDPH about our process and protocols to do so."
One Medical was allowed to retain enough doses to provide second shots to people who had their first dose, the county said. The SF-based provider said it hopes to continue offering vaccination services.
Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter with NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit. Email her about this story or others at firstname.lastname@example.org.