Hollywood powerbrokers are offering doctors $10,000 bribes to skip California’s vaccine lines to get the coronavirus jab early.
One top Beverly-Hills medical practice claimed it has received dozens of offers from individuals – including entertainment stars – desperate to be vaccinated.
The situation is so bad that one senior entertainment executive described it as like the ‘Hunger Games’ as the rich and famous ‘fight for their lives’ to get the jab and bypass California’s sluggish vaccination rollout.
Reports say some rich and famous people have been going to great lengths to skip the queue with private and boutique physicians, concierge health services, private flights to Florida for vaccine tourism.
Beverly Hills-based Dr Robert Huizenga, known for being actor Charlie Sheen’s physician, told Variety his practice has been offered in excess of $10,000 by the elite who are desperate for the jab.
Beverly Hills-based Dr Robert Huizenga, known for being actor Charlie Sheen’s physician, said his practice has been offered in excess of $10,000 by the elite who are desperate for the jab
The rich and famous in Los Angeles, California, are now using every trick up their sleeve to get vaccinated as millions of ordinary Californians wait their turn
‘We’ve been offered bribes,’ he said. ‘We see people taking planes to every location. We’ve seen people try to transiently get into the healthcare profession or on staff at nursing homes, so they qualify for an early vaccine.’
Dr Huizenga revealed celebrities from the entertainment industry were well represented in those vying for an early spot for the vaccine in a ‘fight for their lives’.
‘You can’t really blame them for pulling out all the stops,’ he added. ‘The state and government have set up a system that is really horrendous.’
‘It’s ‘The Hunger Games’ out there,’ said one top entertainment executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, about the rush to get the vaccine.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has faced criticism over the state’s slow vaccine rollout – California’s stumbling blocks include sites running out of doses and an advisor to pause the use of ten per cent of its shots due to concerns over allergic reactions.
Newsom is facing criticism over California’s slow vaccine rollout – the state’s stumbling blocks include sites running out of doses and an advisor to pause the use of ten per cent of its shots due to concerns over allergic reactions. Pictured: People queue as they wait for the vaccine at Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Californians aged 65 and older are now eligible for vaccines along with healthcare workers, first-responders, food and agricultural workers, teachers and school staff.
After those groups, immunization eligibility will be prioritized among the general public on the basis of age, Newsom said.
Newsom said California has tripled its pace of administering vaccines, reporting giving nearly 2.2 million doses out of 4.1 doses shipped to the state as of Saturday. The goal is to give 1 million more shots over the next 10 days.
The governor lifted stay-at-home orders across the state on Monday after seven weeks because that state is experiencing a ‘flattening of the curve’ in cases.
Governor Gavin Newsom said infection rates and hospital admissions have declined dramatically
Many are angered that those in Hollywood’s positions of power are using their connections as millions wait.
‘Industry people in these positions should be using their power to help and heal the system, not hurt it,’ said one former healthcare worker who is now a media executive.
‘It’s bad behaviour,’ said Dr Art Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at the NYU School of Medicine. He said he had heard of hospital donors trying to use their power to seek early access to the vaccine.
‘We’ve got 91-year-olds waiting, health care workers waiting. People who are wealthy can easily find ways to quarantine, mask, and stay isolated for another month or two, and more vaccine will become available.’
But some Hollywood celebrities have been pictured waiting in queues for their vaccines.
Star Trek legend Sir Patrick Stewart received the jab after waiting in a queue in his car for almost four hours at a drive-through vaccination clinic at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium.
Meanwhile, former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 73, armed himself against the coronavirus last week as he received his first dose of the vaccine in Los Angeles after waiting at a drive-thru.
The news comes as exclusive doctors’ practices in California revealed in December the elite are offering significant donations to hospitals and charities in the hope they can get vaccinated early.
Wealthy Californians are hoping toget early access to a coronavirus vaccine by offering to make donations to hospitals. Pictured: a emergency medicine worker receives a vaccine
Physician Jeff Toll said one of his clients offered to make a five-figure donation to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, one of the first hospitals in the state to receive vaccines.
‘If I donate $25,000 to Cedars, would that help me get in line?’ the client allegedly asked.
‘We get hundreds of calls every single day,’ Ehsan Ali, who runs Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor, told The Los Angeles Times.
He charges between $2,000 and $10,000 a year for personalized care and counts Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber among his clients.
‘This is the first time where I have not been able to get something for my patients, he added.
Yet the doctors have all been forced to say ‘no’ despite the pestering, as the state keeps tight restrictions on who receives the first batches of its vaccine.
The graph depicts the rapid increase of infections between late November through December in California. The increase is being blamed on what researchers believe is a homegrown strain of the coronavirus
In California, more than 3.1 million cases have been reported and 36,790 people have died. More than 18,000 people died in the state in less than three months
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said around 19.3 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine while about 3.3 million people have been fully vaccinated so far as of Monday.
The United States as a whole has also seen declines in newly reported COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions over the past two weeks, following an alarming year-end spike of infections.
In parts of California, Texas and other states, that surge filled hospital intensive care units, emergency rooms, ambulance bays and morgues to overflowing.
The newly improved outlook for California nevertheless came as the country surpassed the ominous milestone of 25 million known infections, with nearly 419,000 American lives lost from the pandemic.
California’s stay-at-home restrictions, among the most stringent constraints on business and social life imposed anywhere in the country, were triggered in early December when available space in hospital ICUs reached maximum capacity.
Governor Gavin Newsom said infection rates and hospital admissions in California, the most populous U.S. state with 40 million residents, have since declined dramatically, and projections show available ICU capacity climbing well above minimum thresholds over the next month.
‘But we are not out of the woods,’ Newsom added, urging continued adherence to mask-wearing requirements and social distancing until collective immunity can be achieved through vaccinations.
The stay-at-home rules lifted on Monday had required residents to remain largely indoors and avoid travel around the clock, except as necessary for permitted activities such as grocery shopping, medical appointments, individual outdoor exercise and dog walks.
Those constraints were lifted on Monday for Southern California, the San Francisco Bay area and the state’s largely agricultural San Joaquin Valley. The greater Sacramento area was excused from the order two weeks ago, and the extreme northern California region was never under it.
The governor stressed that lesser restrictions imposed in November remained in effect for most of the state – a nightly curfew on all indoor social gatherings and non-essential activities outside the home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.