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Rye Nursing Home Board Members 'Cut in Line' for COVID-19 Vaccine

Picture of vaccine vial
Wikimedia Commons

Board members at a Rye nursing home "cut in line" for a COVID-19 vaccine, according to New Hampshire health officials. 

When contacted by Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette, Webster at Rye admitted to including board members, who do not directly care for residents, on their list of eligible staff members for a vaccine.

"The Department condemns the facility’s decision to allow its board members to 'cut in line' to get the vaccine by prioritizing board members alongside their direct caregivers," wrote Jake Leon, spokesman for the state health department, in a statement to NHPR. "Vaccine supplies remain very limited, and any doses provided to individuals not eligible for the first phase are doses that aren’t available to vaccinate people who are most at risk of severe complications if exposed to the virus."

One staff member -- who works closely with residents and wanted to remain anonymous to protect their job -- told NHPR they were not able to get the vaccine while administrators and board members were, and would have to wait for the next clinic scheduled for Jan. 20.

Thomas Argue, CEO and administrator at Webster at Rye, said it was his decision to invite board members and he encouraged them to participate at the end of the clinic "so every employee could receive their vaccine first." 

"Based on information that CVS was vaccinating all staff who wanted to receive the vaccine regardless of their job description, and that the vaccine was available to 'paid and unpaid' individuals, I made the decision to include our all-volunteer governing board in those receiving the vaccine based on their fiduciary responsibility to oversee the operation of Webster at Rye as directors," Argue said in statement.

The facility received vaccinations through the federal pharmacy partnership program which, in New Hampshire, has faced criticism from those within long-term care who have had issues with communication and scheduling clinics with their pharmacy partners.

So far, while 33,150 vaccines have been made available for long-term care facilities partnering with pharmacies, only 7,283 doses have actually been administered to patients as of Friday. Vaccines are currently reserved for the most high-risk individuals in the state: that includes health care workers, first responders, and staff and residents of long-term care facilities.

The state health department has not yet responded to questions about whether the state would take any actions against the facility.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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