Rich people clamber for COVID vaccine, offering money and plying connections: report

Nancy Dillon, New York Daily News

The rich and powerful are trying to wield their wealth to get priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new report.

One prosperous patient offered six figures to jump the line at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a doctor told the Los Angeles Times.

“If I donate $25,000 to Cedars, would that help me get in line?” the unidentified patient asked Dr. Jeff Toll, who recounted the offensive offer to the newspaper.

The concierge doctor with admitting privileges at Cedars said he firmly told the patient no.

“People are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars,” Toll, whose personalized practice starts at $5,000 a year and can go as high as $25,000, said.

“We get hundreds of calls every single day,” Dr. Ehsan Ali, who runs Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor, told The Times.

His well-heeled Hollywood clientele, which includes A-listers Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, pays between $2,000 and $10,000 a year for concierge care.

“This is the first time where I have not been able to get something for my patients,” he said.

One unidentified doctor told The Times some Hollywood heavyweights are using their assistants to work the phones and hunt for a VIP back door.

“Their people are calling me literally every day,” the doctor reportedly said. “They don’t want to wait. They want to know how they can get it more quickly.”

At the moment, Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccine gained an FDA panel’s recommendation for emergency use on Thursday, are not directly distributing doses to doctors and private citizens yet. Government officials are still controlling the flow and prioritizing front line medical workers and nursing home residents.

When the supply opens up to the general population, that’s when wealthy patients likely will have a legal leg up, The Times reported.

“As soon as we heard about the vaccine coming to market, we started looking for freezers,” Andrew Olanow, co-founder of Sollis Health, a concierge practice with offices in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, told The Times.

He said Sollis Health ordered six ultra-low temperature freezers at about $5,000 each about six weeks ago, shortly before “larger governmental orders” sucked up much of the remaining supply.

The freezers are necessary to effectively stock the vaccines, especially Pfizer’s, which requires a South Pole-style deep freeze.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, meanwhile, has warned that state officials will be “very aggressive in making sure that those with means, those with influence, are not crowding out those that are most deserving of the vaccines.”

“Those that think they can get ahead of the line and those that think because they have resources or they have relationships that will allow them to do it ... we also will be monitoring that very, very closely,” he said.