South Bay hospital under fire for vaccinating teachers ahead of others on priority list

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose's Good Samaritan Hospital is now under investigation by Santa Clara County officials for offering the coronavirus vaccine to teachers from the Los Gatos Union School District (LGUSD) in violation of county regulations regarding distribution.

"Good Samaritan Hospital's actions are inconsistent with both the letter and spirit of the State's direction on vaccine eligibility," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's testing and vaccine officer, in a letter to hospital administration over the weekend.

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Teachers were contacted last week by LGUSD Superintendent Paul Johnson about the opportunity to receive the vaccine ahead of others. In an email obtained by the Mercury News, ABC7's media partner, the offer was framed by the superintendent as a thank you from Good Samaritan, after the district raised funds at the start of the pandemic to help provide meals for frontline workers.

"Schools are a fabric of our society, and they need to open, and we need to move forward," said Johnson, during a virtual board meeting Thursday in which he referenced the district's goals of reopening classrooms in the next week or so.

According to Good Samaritan officials, more than 60 teachers signed up to receive a vaccine when the appointments were made available. At least one educator stated his opposition during the virtual board meeting, but a number of trustees said they didn't see anything wrong with the district accepting the hospital's offer.

"The allegation that something untoward, or illegal was done, or at least unethical, I think is false," said Daniel Snyder, LGSUD board trustee.

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Citing state regulations in moving on to lower-priority groups, Good Samaritan said they issued the appointments to the district once the vaccines began to thaw and only after they failed to find people within Phase 1A and those over 65. However, county officials didn't buy that explanation and informed the hospital that they would not be granted their next vaccine allocation until they could prove they'd be following the county's vaccine distribution rules.

Monday afternoon, Johnson released a statement, which read in part: "I completely understand concerns about the vaccine rollout, and any characterization I may have made about Good Samaritan returning a good deed was my own personal interpretation. While I apologize for that characterization, I also will continue to advocate for school staff to be a high priority for vaccinations."

The hospital says it regrets the error, and is conducting an internal investigation to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again.

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