CHICAGO — The city is warning coronavirus vaccination providers their dose supply will be cut off if they don’t follow eligibility rules and let people “cut” in line.
The warning comes as Loretto Hospital — a small, West Side vaccine provider — is embroiled in controversy for vaccinating ineligible workers at Trump Tower and for its chief operating officer, Dr. Anosh Ahmed, telling people he vaccinated Eric Trump, as first reported by Block Club.
Ahmed — who later said he was joking — lives in Trump Tower and has told people he’s friends with Trump, who wouldn’t have been eligible for a vaccine in Chicago.
The city’s health department is investigating the Trump Tower vaccination event.
“… Our city will not tolerate providers who blatantly disregard the Chicago Department of Public Health’s distribution guidelines for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a Thursday statement. “Unfortunately, in recent days, stories have surfaced alleging providers who had an obligation to follow CDPH guidelines, ignored those restrictions and instead allowed well-connected individuals to jump the line to receive the vaccine instead of using it to service people who were more in need.
“CDPH is looking into these matters, and if they identify providers who aren’t following the guidance, they will deny them future allocations of vaccine.”
Should the city cut off doses to bad actor providers, it will “make sure that residents are not left in the lurch” and can still get vaccinated, Lightfoot said.
“But to be clear, we have and will continue to demand accountability,” Lightfoot said.
The city sent a warning to providers on Thursday, saying, “The city of Chicago is no longer providing vaccine doses to providers who were found to have disregarded and not adhered to the below prioritization guidelines. Providers who knowingly disregard or whose patient prioritization and outreach practices do not effectively adhere to the prioritization guidelines will be ineligible for further City of Chicago vaccine doses.
“Providers who do not enter doses into I-CARE or inventory into Vaccine Finder in a timely manner will also be ineligible for City of Chicago vaccine doses moving forward.”
Earlier in the week, Lightfoot said she was “disappointed” by Loretto’s March 10 vaccination event at Trump Tower — and said she asked Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, to “dig deeper” into the hospital’s story about the event.
The event at the 401 N. Wabash Ave. tower comes as many in Chicago who are eligible to be vaccinated and most at risk from COVID-19 are still struggling to find an appointment to get vaccinated.
Loretto Hospital is a small, 122-bed hospital that operates on the underserved West Side, where people of color have been hit hard by coronavirus and few people have been vaccinated. Trump Tower is Downtown, where the virus’s impact has not been felt as much — but where more vaccinations have been done.
The city has highlighted Loretto’s work as an example of its goal of equitably vaccinating people — even insisting on having the city’s first vaccine doses administered there to show how Chicago would prioritize West and South side communities that are often ignored.
In a letter to Loretto’s staff, the hospital’s CEO, George Miller, took responsibility for the March 10 event, saying he authorized it.
Loretto Hospital has done other off-site vaccination events, but all were staged on the West Side of Chicago near the hospital, a spokeswoman said. Those events happened at schools, subsidized housing facilities and churches in the hospital’s service area — not at big-name, Downtown businesses like Trump Tower.
Hospital leaders were “under the impression” the hotel workers they vaccinated at Trump Tower on March 10 were eligible to be vaccinated, a spokeswoman said, despite well-publicized guidelines that make it clear hotel workers aren’t eligible until the city enters phase 1C.
On Friday, after WBEZ’s report about ineligible judges being offered doses at Loretto, a hospital spokeswoman again told Block Club officials there had been confused about eligibility. That marks the second time in one week the hospital has said it didn’t know who was eligible for vaccinations.
The hospital has also come under scrutiny for another incident: The same day of the Trump Tower vaccination event, Ahmed took a photo of himself with Eric Trump at the tower and told people he’d “vaccinated” Trump.
Ahmed also shared a message praising Trump, calling him a “cool guy.”
In a statement sent through a spokeswoman after Block Club’s story published, Ahmed said his claim was a “joke” and denied vaccinating Trump.
“Eric Trump happened to be in the building but we did not vaccinate him,” Ahmed said in the statement. “A few residents including myself did take a photo with him. My post was meant as a joke … .”
Ahmed said Trump has an “anti-vaccine stance,” but Trump has not publicly shared anti-vaccine stances that Block Club could find. His father, Donald Trump, and his stepmother were vaccinated while at the White House.
Lightfoot said officials must do all they can to get doses of vaccine to the people who need them most. The city is still trying to vaccinate people 65 and older — those most at risk of severe illness and death — and won’t move into the next round of vaccinations until March 29.
“This life saving vaccine is a precious, but limited resource and one that must be preserved to do the most good,” Lightfoot said in her statement. “Since day one of this virus, Chicago’s vaccination plan has been focused around equity and reaching those who need this life-saving treatment the most.”
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.