January 28, 2021

 Some of the first people to get COVID-19 vaccinations at a New Jersey medical center were the relatives of top hospital executives and some of its trustees and donors, according to a published report.

The shots were administered by Hunterdon Medical Center in December and early January, at a time when only front-line healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities were eligible.

A registry of vaccine recipients, obtained by New Jersey 101.5 FM, indicated that shots had gone to two longtime donors to the hospital and at least seven spouses and two adult children of medical directors, administrators or executives at the healthcare network. The radio station said it was given the registry by a whistleblower, who it did not identify.

Some of the recipients were in their 20s, an age group unlikely to qualify for the vaccine for many months.

A hospital spokesperson said donors and board members weren’t given preference over eligible staff or at-risk individuals who were available, but that they received the vaccine when eligible recipients couldn’t be located rather than have the vaccine doses go to waste.

“More than 99% of the doses Hunterdon Healthcare has administered so far have gone to prioritized healthcare workers, clinicians, seniors and at-risk individuals,” spokesperson Jason VanDiver said in an email Thursday.

“When additional Hunterdon Healthcare employees or physicians wanting the vaccine could not be located before a vaccine dose expired, we vaccinated volunteers who were easily contacted and immediately available, including family members of clinic staff, board members, community members, and family members of the leadership team. This was in keeping with a protocol approved by the Department of Health,” he added.

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