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One Medical Faces Accusations Of Giving COVID-19 Vaccines To Ineligible People

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A massive American health care provider named One Medical has been letting people jump the line for COVID-19 vaccines, according to internal communications leaked to NPR. One Medical is a boutique primary health care provider that promises concierge services for an annual fee. This is a growing segment of the U.S. health care system. The company went public last year and is now valued in the billions of dollars. It denies it knowingly vaccinated ineligible patients, but internal messages obtained by NPR investigative correspondent Tim Mak tell a different story.

And Tim is with us now. Hi there.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what these messages say.

MAK: So these documents show example after example of doctors and medical providers in several states raising the alarm about One Medical's practices. Now, to break it down, there are two categories of wrongdoing here. First, friends and family of One Medical leadership were given appointments for the vaccine even though they weren't eligible. The second category involves patients. The internal documents show that in January, the company did not properly screen out ineligible patients, giving disqualified people a loophole to get vaccinated. Since our story published at npr.org this morning, I've received numerous messages from members of the public who know patients who were apparently improperly vaccinated by One Medical.

SHAPIRO: So as doctors were raising these alarms, how did company management at One Medical respond?

MAK: Well, these internal communications indicate that they responded kind of with a shrug. The medical professionals inside the company expressed concern as they came across patients that apparently shouldn't have been vaccinated, getting vaccinated. And they tried to come up with ways, for example, to cancel appointments for ineligible patients. But they were told by a senior company leader, quote, "We are not policing."

SHAPIRO: This story has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the day. What's One Medical saying?

MAK: Well, they're saying that they had not knowingly vaccinated patients who are disqualified from receiving the vaccine, that it took this issue seriously, took steps to screen and that it had fired several staff for disregarding eligibility requirements. They also blamed the, quote, "fog of war" during this public health crisis.

SHAPIRO: And what about regulators who are in charge of vaccine distribution? Are they saying anything?

MAK: Yeah. Well, they have taken notice, and multiple jurisdictions have received complaints about One Medical. Washington state's Department of Public Health, for example, said they halted vaccine allocations to the company after a complaint about ineligible vaccinations. One county in California said they would not give more doses to One Medical after One Medical expressed the plan to vaccinate ineligible populations. And Los Angeles County said they had warned the company numerous times about this issue by phone and email.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR investigative correspondent Tim Mak.

Thank you for your reporting.

MAK: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.