SoulCycle instructor got vaccine as educator


For Stacey Griffith, a New York-based SoulCycle instructor, whose much-sought-after spin classes are often dotted with celebrities, getting a shot of the vaccine was pretty straightforward: She did some paperwork and made it an hour’s drive to Manhattan at a coronavirus vaccination site on Staten Island.

But after posting on Instagram about her vaccination – and telling a reporter for the Daily Beast that her role as a fitness instructor made her eligible for the vaccine as an educator – Ms Griffith was quickly subject to criticism. ‘a fierce reaction.

On social media, commentators wondered how a fit 52-year-old man managed to make his way ahead of essential workers and at-risk seniors. Almost immediately, Ms Griffith, who has since apologized, appeared to become the latest example of a wealthy or well-connected person having inappropriate access to scarce vaccine doses.

The outcry has come as officials across the country struggle to address racial and socio-economic disparities that have become increasingly evident as vaccine distribution continues. And as millions of eligible frontline workers and members of hard-hit populations across the country wait their turn to be vaccinated, accounts of patients leveraging their wealth and personal connections to jump the line have compounded the problems. frustrations over an already difficult deployment.

“If we leave it to everyone, that’s what’s going to happen,” said Dr Denis Nash, professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York and a former senior city health official. “As long as you have a system that allows for this stuff, there will be people who are part of the system – and people who are connected to those people – who will benefit from it.”

This dynamic has unfolded across the country and around the world amid a global rush to get vaccines and get back to a more normal life.

In Florida, state officials said last month they were investigating reports that a retirement home in West Palm Beach was distributing doses to members of a country club and other wealthy donors. Some Hollywood entertainment and media executives have turned to concierge services and private medical offices to quickly secure access to vaccine doses.

And in New Jersey, a Hunterdon County hospital has come under fire after it was accused of allowing financial backers, healthcare network executives and their loved ones to skip queues weeks before. that the state begins to open eligibility to the general public. Officials at the medical facility said they were operating under health regulations.

For heads of state and public health experts, the stories are a shocking reminder that the deployment was marked by inequalities. Data shows that in some low-income neighborhoods of the country hit hard by the virus, wealthier residents continue to be vaccinated at a faster rate. And in many areas, including New York City, black and Latino residents have received significantly fewer doses than their white counterparts.

These existing disparities only compounded the fury that erupted after Ms Griffith’s vaccination. The outcry began hours after she posted a photo on Instagram late last week that appeared to show her a first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

“Now I can teach @soulcycle with a little more faith that all will be well,” Ms. Griffith wrote in the caption.

The state entered phase 1b of its vaccine rollout last month, which allows police officers, transit workers, grocery store workers facing the public, and teachers to sign up for dates. vaccination. But fitness instructors are not included in this list.

“This doesn’t sound like someone who should have been vaccinated,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference on Sunday. “I don’t think someone who walks up and says, ‘Hey, I’m a SoulCycle instructor,’ should have qualified unless there was some other factor. This should have been taken into account in the application process. “

Ms Griffith did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. But in an interview with The Daily Beast, she said her position as an educator made her eligible. She added that she “had the same luck everyone has by going online and filling out a questionnaire,” and said her vaccination did not involve “favors” or paying money to avoid the waiting line.

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Answers to your questions about vaccines

Currently, more than 150 million people – almost half of the population – are eligible for vaccination. But each state makes the final decision as to who starts. The country’s 21 million healthcare workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities were the first to qualify. In mid-January, federal officials urged all states to open eligibility to all people 65 and older and adults of all ages with health conditions that put them at high risk of becoming seriously ill. or die from Covid-19. The adults of the general population are at the back of the pack. If federal and state health authorities can remove the bottlenecks in vaccine distribution, everyone 16 and older will become eligible as early as this spring or early summer. The vaccine has not been approved in children, although studies are ongoing. It can take months for a vaccine to be available to anyone under the age of 16. Visit your state’s website for up-to-date information on immunization policies in your area.

You shouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine, although you will be asked for insurance information. If you don’t have insurance, you should still get the vaccine at no cost. Congress passed a law this spring that prohibits insurers from enforcing any cost sharing, such as a copayment or deductible. It was based on additional protections prohibiting pharmacies, doctors and hospitals from billing patients, including those who are uninsured. Even so, health experts fear that patients will stumble upon loopholes that expose them to surprise bills. This could happen to those who are charged a doctor’s visit fee with their vaccine, or to Americans who have certain types of health coverage that do not fall under the new rules. If you get your vaccine from a doctor or emergency care clinic, tell them about any hidden costs. To make sure you don’t get a surprise bill, your best bet is to get vaccinated at a health service vaccination site or local pharmacy once vaccines become more widely available.

This remains to be determined. It is possible that the Covid-19 vaccination will become an annual event, just like the flu vaccine. Or it could be that the benefits of the vaccine last for more than a year. We have to wait and see how durable the protection against vaccines is. To determine this, researchers will follow vaccinated people looking for “revolutionary cases” – those people who contract Covid-19 despite being vaccinated. This is a sign of weakening protection and will give researchers clues about how long the vaccine will last. They will also monitor the levels of antibodies and T cells in the blood of people who have been vaccinated to determine if and when a booster injection might be needed. It’s conceivable that people will need boosters every few months, once a year, or just every few years. It’s just a matter of waiting for the data.

“In my health and wellness profession as a teacher,” said Ms. Griffith, “my priority is to get my community and its respiratory system to work at full capacity so that they can overcome this. virus if they are infected with it. I can only teach them if I am healthy myself.

On Monday, she expressed her regret on Instagram.

“I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for my recent action in receiving the vaccine,” she wrote. “I made a terrible error in judgment and I am so sorry.”

A SoulCycle spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For public health experts and others struggling to get their own doses, the situation reflected a further disruption in efforts to ensure the vaccine gets to the populations who need it most.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has threatened penalties of up to $ 1 million against medical workers who illegally distribute the vaccine. Last month, Cuomo also pitched the idea of ​​criminalizing administering the vaccine to anyone who was not eligible under state guidelines. And for some New York doctors, the threat of huge penalties has been used to turn away patients seeking a quick route to vaccination.

But it’s unclear how effective the deterrents were: Over the weekend, University of Rochester Medical Center apologized for offering 26 people with ties to the school early access to vaccine doses.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr Dave A. Chokshi said on Sunday that in order to register for a vaccination appointment, people had to indicate that they were eligible – and that once that potential recipients were at a city vaccination site, those who could not prove their eligibility. with documentation are refused.

But for Dr. Nash, the continuing stories of skipped lines and unfair distribution are the product of flawed deployment. In a better system, he said, people would enter their personal and demographic information and be notified by the city when their turn came.

“If you wanted to design a vaccination program that would perpetuate – or even worsen or exacerbate existing inequalities – this would be the one you would design,” Dr Nash said of the existing system. “This is basically a take-home vaccine.”

“If you run a program that doesn’t care about how it’s going to impact inequality,” he said, “then it’s fundamentally flawed.

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