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City Defends Oversight Of Vaccine Distribution Process Despite Scandals At Loretto, Innovative Express Care

Despite multiple issues with providers vaccinating ineligible people, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city has done a good job at overseeing the vaccination rollout.

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CHICAGO — The city has had to cut off coronavirus vaccine doses to two providers so far due to scandals — but officials defended their oversight of the rollout during a Wednesday news conference.

Loretto Hospital in Austin and Innovative Express Care, a local chain of clinics, are no longer receiving vaccination doses from the city because they broke the health department’s rules, officials have said. Despite those issues, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city has done a good job at overseeing the vaccination rollout.

“I think we have very robust oversight,” Lightfoot said at a Wednesday news conference. “And what we’re talking about is medical professionals that have a license that has been vetted and approved by the state. We have a right to expect and, per our contract, that people abide by the rules and that they give us accurate reporting. And what we’ve seen in at least two instances — that hasn’t been the case.

RELATED: More City-Run Vaccination Clinics Needed In Hard-Hit Areas, Aldermen Say, As Vaccine Scandals Show Urgent Need For Oversight

“And when that doesn’t happen, we obviously start with the conversation with the provider, we point out the things that we see — and when we see that because of our oversight — and we give them an opportunity to get it right.”

Loretto Hospital is meant to serve the West Side — but it has been found to have vaccinated ineligible employees of a Gold Coast steakhouse, as well as ineligible people at a luxury Gold Coast watch and jewelry shop, at Trump Tower and at a suburban church. All locations have ties to top executives at the hospital. Cook County judges were also offered doses, despite being ineligible, according to a WBEZ report.

And the city announced Tuesday it had cut off doses to Innovative Express Care, which is supposed to be vaccinating Chicago Public Schools employees, because the chain used doses for non-CPS employees and “misrepresented” how many second doses it needed from the city so it could use those as first doses on more people, said Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“When we see instances where they’re not making the changes that are necessary to comply with the protocols, to comply with the expectations that we set with every single provider … then we have to take very swift action,” Lightfoot said. “And that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Arwady has previously said the city’s health department is not a regulatory agency, and the harshest punishment it can dole out to vaccine providers is to cut off their supply of doses.

When the city has done that, it’s worked to ensure people in affected communities can still get vaccination appointments through other providers.

It’s not clear if any providers or executives will face significant punishment for vaccinating ineligible people. Loretto Hospital’s board of directors has kept hidden what “reprimands” it doled out to CEO George Miller and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Anosh Ahmed.

The hospital’s board said Friday it had taken “appropriate actions of reprimand against Miller and Ahmed for their role in the mistakes of judgment” — but members of the board have refused to reveal those punishments.

On Monday, the board held an emergency meeting and said it had created a corrective plan of action, but members again refused to say what they were planning to do or how they’d reprimanded Miller and Ahmed.

Rep. LaShawn Ford, a member of the board and representative of the area in the state Legislature, resigned Tuesday morning, saying the board needs to be more transparent.

Some state lawmakers have called on officials to investigate the Loretto scandals.

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