SAN BENITO COUNTY, Calif. (KION)
On Monday evening the San Benito Health Foundation announced they have been suspended from administering vaccines until an investigation surrounding allegations is completed.
The Health Foundation is accused of giving vaccines out of phase to volunteers with the San Juan Bautista Rotary Club.
Last week, the San Benito Health Public Health Department confirmed they were investigating allegations that the foundation was giving vaccines to people out of phase. Several staff members of the Health Foundation have ties to the rotary club, including, Rosa Vivian Fernandez, CEO of the Health Foundation.
In a statement released on Monday evening, Fernadez said, “The allegations are nothing more than an attempt to discriminate against farm workers and other vulnerable populations in the community. Our staff worked closely with our community partners to successfully vaccinate 789 people in the first three weeks of January during our vaccination distribution. This represents 30% of total vaccinations by all providers in San Benito County since November 2020. As trained health professionals, we followed all protocols required for the safe administration of the vaccines. All vaccinations per statewide mandate were recorded in the California State Immunization Registry and administered to eligible community members. We are confident with the transparency that we’ve maintained will vindicate us as we continue our efforts to keep our community safe."
According to the Health Foundation they are better equipped to vaccinate 600 - 800 weekly and says the San Benito County Public Health Department has no released the doses for front line workers.
The San Benito County’s Health Department is investigating the San Benito Health Foundation after allegations that the foundation was giving coronavirus vaccines to people who are currently ineligible.
Victoria Montoya, the San Benito Foundation Secretary, said the real story is that the San Benito County Health Department is not prepared.
“This county is behind,” said Montoya. “They don't have enough staff to do the job where the clinic has all that's needed and has been doing the right thing.”
She said the rotary members who were vaccinated were people who have helped to distribute food.
“She did give them a vaccine, to the people that volunteer in some way or another at the clinic,” said Montoya. “That’s how it is, and it’s all in file. So what you should know is that no, it’s not just done to anybody.”
It is not clear how many of the volunteers who received a vaccine were over the age of 65. The San Benito Health Foundation is currently under investigation because of the allegations that it did not follow the state's vaccine distribution plan.
“This is concerning. They are allegations at this point, and we’re doing an investigation to understand what happened,” said Dr. David Ghilarducci, the San Benito County Public Health Officer. “We need to establish a system of accountability to ensure they were administered appropriately.”
The San Benito Health Foundation is the only federally qualified health center in the county. Ghilarducci said people need to be patient and wait for their turn. He also said trust is very important throughout the vaccination process and that the allegations are a big concern for them.
“There was maybe a reasonable misunderstanding but the degree and number of allegations we received from different sources do lead us to be very concerned about it,” said Ghilarducci.
On Friday, the San Benito Health Foundation issued a statement, saying it has been, "maligned in a vicious negative public media campaign." The health care provider said it has followed orders issued by the state, but argues that they did not align with the Public Health Department's plan for county distribution.
Since the allegations were made, the foundation says the Public Health Department has withheld vaccines.
“The allegations are nothing more than an attempt to discriminate against farm workers and other vulnerable populations in the community," said CEO Rosa Vivian Fernandez. "Our staff worked closely with our community members to successfully vaccinate 789 people in the first two weeks of our vaccination distribution, representing 30% of total vaccinations by all providers in San Benito County since November 2020. As extensively trained health professionals we followed all protocols required for the safe administration of the vaccines. All vaccinations per statewide mandate were recorded in the state registry and administered to eligible community members. We are confident with the transparency we’ve maintained that we will be vindicated and continue with our efforts to keep our community safe.”
Read the full statement below.