Stanford’s algorithm determined to vaccinate only seven of its frontline staff with COVID-19, out of 5,000 doses in total

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One algorithm that determined which Stanford Medicine employees would get the 5,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine included only seven residents or fellows on the list, a Dec. 17 letter from Stanford Medicine’s Board of Governors shows. Leadership at Stanford Medicine has since issued an apology and promised to reevaluate the plan.

“We take full responsibility for the errors in the execution of our vaccine distribution plan,” a Stanford Medicine spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. “Our intent was to develop an ethical and equitable process for vaccine distribution. We apologize to our entire community, including our residents, fellows and other frontline caregivers who acted heroically during our response to the pandemic. We are immediately revising our plan to better sequence vaccine distribution.”

The initial plan led demonstrations by the medical staff, in addition to the letter sent by the Chief Medical Officer’s Council.

” Stanford’s decision to de-prioritize residents and fellows is defenseless based on science, reason, ethics, and equity,” the letter stated. (ProPublica has hosted the full letter on DocumentCloud.) “Many of us know senior faculty who have worked from home since the pandemic began in March 2020, without in-person patient responsibility, who have been selected for vaccination. Meanwhile, we residents and fellows are strapping on N95 masks in the tenth month of this pandemic without a transparent and clear plan for our protection.”

The residents’ letter also claims that the flaw in the algorithm was found Tuesday, but that leadership decided not to make any changes to the plan before its Dec. 17 release.

This is how the algorithm reportedly worked, According to NPR:

According to an email sent by a chief medical officer to other residents, Stanford leaders explained that an algorithm was used to assign its first allocation of the vaccine. The algorithm reportedly prioritized health care workers at highest risk for COVID infection, along with factors such as age and the location or unit where they worked in the hospital. Residents apparently had no assigned location, and along with their typically young age, they were ranked low on the priority list.

The Stanford Medicine administration sent an email to employees on Dec. 18 apologizing for the original plan and promising changes. “We are working quickly to fix the flaws in our plan and develop a revised version,” the email, obtained by ProPublica healthcare reporter Caroline Chen, stated. “We are optimistic that a large shipment of vaccines will arrive next week, which will allow us to vaccinate a large portion of our community.

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