This week, Stanford University’s medicine officials received their first batch of 5,000 Pfizer vaccines for COVID-19.
However, the vaccine distribution planned was followed with a hospital-wide protest of angry, neglected residents. The distribution algorithm prioritized only the higher-ranking doctors and senior faculty, most who were working from home with no direct contact with patients. This left all 1,300 but 7 residents who came into daily contact with COVID-19 patients, without a vaccine. With the physical ordeal in hospitals nationwide, doctors and residents continue to repeat the same bearing cycle of strapping up in high-level biosafety suits, wearing tight restrictive masks, working in solitude as patients die in their arms.
To protest this faulty plan, the chief residents of Stanford University sent a letter to medical officials: “Many of us know senior faculty who have worked from home since the pandemic began in March 2020, with no in-person patient responsibilities, who were selected for vaccination. In the meantime, we residents and fellows strap on N95 masks for the tenth month of this pandemic without a transparent and clear plan for our protection in place.”
Expressing anger, the residents’ letter also highlighted after this faulty plan was brought to attention, the higher-ups made no changes, ultimately leading to a breakout of protests.
The news began to spread virally, reaching major media platforms, catching the attention of other residents of other universities as fear arose for a similar fate. In person, Stanford’s residents began to protest on Friday as they demanded for change in equity with signs with phrases “I catch their babies, Stanford is ok that I catch their COVID too?”, “Lack of Priority”. and “Healthcare Hero Support is Zero”. Medical residents were pictured protesting outside the hospital throughout Friday morning.
Following the protests, the leadership of Stanford’s medical school sent an email to all its staff members with an apology: “We are writing to acknowledge the significant concerns expressed by our community regarding the development and execution of our vaccine distribution plan. We are working quickly to address the flaws in our plan and develop a revised version.”
Stanford has not released any more information on the new specific plan; however, other residents told NPR that the system had become chaotic as the selective process had no structure, giving some lucky residents a vaccine while others faced rejection a second time.
A neurology resident told NPR: “The ones who ultimately approved the decisions are responsible. If this is an oversight, even if unintentional, it speaks volumes about how the front line staff and residents are perceived: an afterthought, only after we’ve protested. There’s an utter disconnect between the administrators and the front line workers. This is also reflective that no departmental chair or chief resident was involved in the decision making process.”