SAN BENITO COUNTY, Calif. (KION)
UPDATE: After discussions between the San Benito County Health Department, the Board of Supervisors and the San Benito Health Foundation (SBHF) regarding allegations of inappropriate vaccine delivery, the foundation is going to starting receiving doses again.
"The main issue is they are an important partner. We need them. They serve the underserved community. So getting those vaccines out to people in that group is certainly very important to us," Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci tells KION. "On the other hand, we do have other means to get vaccine to them (underserved communities), so it is not that we are entirely dependent, but we do want to have them as a partner."
SBHF was accused of giving the vaccine to people outside of county eligibility at the time. The county says their investigation "substantiated" the allegations.
The health foundation disagrees with the allegations and findings, claiming they followed all state guidelines and criticizing the county's vaccine effort.
The San Benito Health Foundation in San Benito County has been under investigation after claims that it was administering COVID-19 vaccines to people who were not eligible, and the county said the investigation has come to a close.
They were accused of distributing vaccines to San Juan Batista Rotary Club volunteers outside of phase 1A. The issue is that volunteers were only helping out with food distribution. Administrators of the foundation themselves are members of the Rotary Club.
According to county spokesperson David Westrick, they found that the allegations were true and that the foundation was vaccinating people who were not in Phase 1A, which was the only one eligible at the time.
Westrick said a letter was sent to the foundation outlining requirements and steps the foundation will need to take to get vaccine allocations in the future.
"The letter contains information to help them correct whatever issues with the misappropriation with the vaccine and sort of gives them the procedure as we kind of move forward," says Westrick.
KION reached out to Rosa Fernandez, the CEO of San Benito Health Foundation about the county's findings and she says, "The allegations haven't been verified. County has not provided data. Data on who San Benito Health Foundation has vaccinated is transparent and on our website. All vaccines were provided to persons as per California State Department of Health Guidelines."
Fernandez is on the Rotary board and a former Rotary president.
Despite what the county has found in the investigation, they point out this type of situation is an outlier and that the county is dedicated to vaccine equity. "Vaccines should be equitable and that's what we're trying here in San Benito County, have an equal and fair access to vaccine for everybody," says Westrick.
San Benito County Public Health Services reported the allegations to the California Department of Public Health in January, and the investigation began at that point. After the investigation began, the foundation was suspended from administering vaccines.