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Dept. of Health responds to reports of Geisinger vaccinating employees’ family members

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) – The Pennsylvania Department of Health is responding to our questions about how state officials believe local health systems should be administering COVID-19 vaccines.

The statement follows a recent report that Geisinger held vaccination clinics for employees, and also allowed employees’ family members to get vaccinated. 

As one of the first health care systems in the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Geisinger Health System began administering vaccines to its employees in mid-December.

By January 4, Geisinger reported 40 percent of its staff had received their first dose. Geisinger also said non-employees were able to get the vaccine during this time as well.

“Geisinger is using 10% of its vaccine for non-Geisinger employees, who the Department of Health defines as Phase 1A health care personnel. This includes EMS workers and community providers who give inpatient care,” Geisinger announced in their January 4 release.

An article published by the Associated Press says Geisinger held employee vaccination clinics on three consecutive Sundays in late January and early February, allowing employees’ family members to “skip the COVID-19 vaccine line” and get vaccinated.

Eyewitness News reached out to Geisinger about that report.

“We made accommodations to open separate clinics on three consecutive Sundays to administer vaccine to employees and up to two family members eligible as part of the state’s current Phase 1A groups,” said Matthew Van Stone, Geisinger Spokesperson.

We contacted the Department of Health to get their response to the report.

“All vaccine providers in Pennsylvania must adhere to the vaccination plan to vaccinate people eligible in Phase 1A. The state’s distribution plan is based on equitable and efficient allocation of vaccine. The department expects providers to administer the vaccine in an equitable manner. Even though there is nothing in the vaccination plan or provider agreement to prohibit what was done, we would hope providers would not prioritize employee families over community members who are also eligible,” the Dept. of Health said in a statement to Eyewitness News Thursday night.

Geisinger says the clinics intended to be for employees and family expanded to the public due to weather and shipment delays. 

“As appointment availability allowed, members of the community were also provided vaccines during the three Sunday clinics,” said Matthew Van Stone, Geisinger Spokesperson.

We’ve also reached out to other area health networks to see their practices.

Commonwealth Health responded, saying they held 40 free public vaccination clinics available to all 1A-eligible members of the public, stating: “The hospital did not prioritize or move employee family members to the front of the line.”

Eyewitness News is awaiting responses from Guthrie and Lehigh Valley Health Network. 

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