American Hospital of Paris accused of giving early Covid vaccines to board members and donors

American Hospital of Paris accused of giving early Covid vaccines to board members and donors
The American Hospital of Paris in the western suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine. Photo: AFP
French health minister Olivier Véran is to investigate reports that the American Hospital of Paris offered the Covid-19 vaccine to its directors and donors in January, breaking with France's priority rules by pushing 'VIPs' to the front of the line.

Situated in the wealthy suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, west of the capital, the American Hospital of Paris is alleged to have been allowing board members and donors to get the Covid injection, according an investigative report by French news site France Info.

The hospital offered the vaccine to both its Board of Governors (some 20 people) and certain donors, several of whom are neither health workers nor in the age groups currently allowed access to the vaccine, according to France Info.

“I was called in for a vaccination . . . on January 14th,” honorary governor Bruno Durieux, 76, told France Info. “All the governors were invited to do so.”

France has a strict vaccination schedule, developed to prioritise those most vulnerable to the virus first by putting the elderly and people with serious underlying health conditions at the front of the queue. 

Contacted by France Info, the American Hospital of Paris said it had vaccinated “all voluntary and eligible people working in the hospital (doctors, caregivers, administrators, governors, cleaning, security and catering providers, volunteer volunteers) according to the criteria of the Ministry of Health and in accordance with the directives of the health authorities.”

But over-75s who are not in nursing homes have only been able to book vaccine appointments since January 18th – four days after the 76-year-old board member Durieux said he had received the call.

Meanwhile the vaccination of healthworkers who are aged under 50 only began on Saturday, February 6th, with the first deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine to France.

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On Monday Health Minister Olivier Véran received the AstraZeneca vaccine at a hospital in Melun, a move that was criticised by some, although as a neurologist as well as a politician he is entitled to the injection.

But most of the board members of the American Hospital of Paris do not currently work in the health sector. Nor are all of them they old enough to qualify for a priority dose. Some board members are in their 40s and 50s, including millionaire Bernaud Lagardère, 59, and Helen Lee Bouygues, 45.

The report also said the hospital had offered some of its first Pzifer vaccine doses to elderly family members of important donors, breaching with the rules set by France’s health authority Haute Autorité de santé.

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The sixth and seventh doses of the Pfizer vaccine were popularly called “the VIP dose” among doctors, one hospital management person told France Info, as these doses require special equipment and skill to extract, and was additional to the initial calculation of five Pfizer doses per bottle.
This was “the one that can be given to non-priority people,” they said, adding that “this behaviour, if morally reprehensible, is not condemnable by law.”
But the health minister said that, if true, such subjective line-cutting by hospitals was unacceptable.

“I won’t accept favouritism,” Véran said on Tuesday, questioned by France Info’s radio channel about the report.

“Upon leaving your studio, I will contact the management of this hospital to see if these facts are confirmed or not,” he said. “If they were to be confirmed I regret it.”

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