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URMC apologizes for offering 'well-connected' people preferential vaccine treatment

University of Rochester

The University of Rochester Medical Center has apologized for offering more than two dozen people well-connected to the university, including URMC board members and donors, preferential treatment for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The apology was sent Sunday to university and medical center leaders in a joint message from the university’s president and the medical center’s chief operating officer.

Sarah Mangelsdorf, the president, and Mark Taubman, the medical center’s CEO, wrote that 26 people with strong ties to the university were invited to register for a vaccine clinic reserved for university employees to be held on Jan. 14 and 15. 

They explained that while the people were eligible to receive a vaccine, meaning they were either over 65 years old or had some condition that made them a priority in the inoculation hierarchy established by the state, they should not have been invited to jump the line.

“The registration information was shared with 26 non-employees who were well-connected to the university, including URMC board members and donors,” the message read in part. “These 26 people were all eligible to receive vaccine, but they should not have received preferential treatment by being invited to the clinic.

“We know that many of you are disappointed by this information, and rightly so,” the message went on. “The notion of privileging some people over others to receive a potentially lifesaving vaccine runs counter to our values. It undermines the hard work we are doing to support the health of everyone in our community during this pandemic.”

The statement did not say how many of the 26 people attended the clinic.

A state Department of Health spokesperson said the matter is under investigation and that, based on preliminary findings, "it appears at this time that no vaccine doses were administered to anyone who was ineligible."

"URMC is retraining its staff on all applicable guidelines and protocols and the individual who sent that email has already been counseled," said the spokesperson, Jill Montag.

She was referring to an email from the medical center's chief fundraiser to her staff sent prior to the clinic that said “major donors” to the hospital system who asked for vaccines could be given special consideration and leapfrog the inoculation queue by being shunted into what she called a “special patient services vaccine clinic.”

READ the statement from UR and URMC in full

The email was obtained last week by WXXI News, which first reported the arrangement on Friday. Word of the matter prompted widespread outrage and calls for a public apology.

A URMC spokesperson said last week that the email had been sent in error.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at WXXI News Director Randy Gorbman contributed to this report.

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