CLEVELAND — A letter sent by Cleveland Clinic CEO Tom Mihaljevic to staff Tuesday said the Clinic will stop vaccinating employees and start vaccinating patients.
"There is growing urgency in how state governments distribute vaccines to this population," Mihaljevic said in the letter, citing new directives issued by the state of Ohio last week.
During Gov. Mike DeWine's press conference last Thursday, he set a deadline for hospitals statewide to finish vaccinating employees.
"We've told the hospitals that they need to switch and they need to switch over Sunday night from doing their own personnel. They need to go ahead and start doing people 80 and above," DeWine said.
A clinic spokesperson said the hospital system has vaccinated more than 29,000 caregivers, which is 57% of its Ohio workforce.
The remaining 43% must now wait until they fall into one of the state's phased categories for the general public.
"I understand how this feels if you have patiently waited your turn, were unable to schedule or still deciding to participate. While we have made strong progress vaccinating caregivers, we have been limited by vaccine supply. We have vaccinated 25,000 Ohio caregivers and 4,000 in Florida," Mihaljevic said in the letter.
"From the beginning, this pandemic has evolved in ways we could not predict. There have been moments of frustration and disappointment. We remain committed to getting all caregivers vaccinated but this will take longer than we had hoped."
The Cleveland Clinic released a statement Wednesday about Phase 1B:
We are grateful for the commitment our caregivers have demonstrated in caring for our patients and each other, as well as their resiliency, teamwork and service to our communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
We continue to follow CDC and State distribution guidance for administering the COVID-19 vaccines as quickly and safely as possible. Following the timeline and criteria set by the Ohio Department of Health, we are now pivoting to Phase 1B to offer vaccinations starting on January 19 for our oldest, most vulnerable patients aged 80 and older.
As part of Phase 1A, we have vaccinated more than 29,000 of our caregivers, representing 57% of our Ohio workforce. Following the deadline provided by the State for Phase 1A, caregivers who have not been scheduled for their first dose of vaccine will now receive their vaccines with the general public based on age and medical conditions set by the State guidance.
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.”
In his press conference today, DeWine said the state's efforts are focused on saving lives, which means vaccinating Ohio's most elderly citizens. Ohio's Phase 1B started this week, beginning with anyone 80 and older.
News 5 reached out to the Ohio Department of Health for comment, a spokeswoman said, "There is no end date for Phase 1A and we still want our frontline healthcare workers to get vaccinated. However, as we move into Phase 1B, there are less vaccines that will be going to hospitals for their healthcare workers and they should no longer be distributing their vaccine to their staff. That should have already taken place. Hospitals started to receive vaccine for phase 1A starting mid-December and have now been asked to stop vaccinating their employees. Local health departments are able to continue to administer to non-hospital affiliated healthcare workers and should do so. When vaccine supplies increase, ODH will provide updated guidance concerning resumption of vaccination of hospital-affiliated healthcare workers."
Still, some Cleveland Clinic workers are upset they no longer get priority and will have to wait with the public now until their age group is called. On the News 5 Facebook Page, one woman said, ”I am actually a caregiver and wanted the vaccine but was unable to get it because they had no appointment available before they were supposed to shut down vaccinating hospital employees. They didn’t have enough vaccine to give to all employees yet offered to every single employee.”
News 5 reached out to the woman who commented for an interview but she said,"I'm going to decline at this time."
Because this is a statewide phased rollout of the vaccine, News 5 also reached out to other local hospital systems for comment.
A representative from University Hospitals said, "University Hospitals follows guidance from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Per guidance from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, UH is no longer scheduling any new Phase 1A vaccine appointments. If an employee has previously received a first dose, UH plans to vaccinate them with a second dose as scheduled."
More than 17,000 UH employees have received their first vaccine dose to date. UH employees had four weeks to sign up to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. All employees who registered to receive a vaccine before Jan. 16 were scheduled for an appointment.
A representative from MetroHealth said, "MetroHealth began last week to vaccinate thousands of patients 80 years and older. We will continue to protect our employees likely to come in contact with COVID patients, per the Governor’s guidance, but our main focus remains on vaccinating patients in Phase 1B.”
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