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Hollywood Execs Divided as Many Jockey for Priority Access to COVID-19 Vaccine

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

Hollywood Execs Divided as Many Jockey for Priority Access to COVID-19 Vaccine

By Movieguide® Staff

As coronavirus vaccinations start to roll out gradually across the U.S., some people in the entertainment industry are reportedly fighting for the first spot in line—while California’s system struggles to distribute vaccines.   

According to Variety, executives have looked into private physicians and other services to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. While not illegal, the use of money, power, and connections to fast-track their way to the start of the line has raised ethical concerns. 

“Industry people in these positions should be using their power to help and heal the system, not hurt it,” a former healthcare worker turned media-executive told Variety.  

Los Angeles County, which initially allowed access to healthcare workers and people over the age of 75, recently added another tier of accessibility for citizens 65 and older.   

Irving Azoff, 73, was among the first executives to receive a vaccination. 

“I’m a 73-year-old cancer survivor. I recently had part of my intestine removed. …I received the vaccine, and I’m glad I did. Everyone eligible should get vaccinated as soon as they can,” Azoff told Variety.

However, Beverly Hills-based Dr. Robert Huizenga said that he had received nearly $10,000 in bribe money.  

“We’ve been offered bribes. We see people taking planes to every location. We’ve seen people try to transiently get into the healthcare profession or on staff at nursing homes, so they qualify for an early vaccine,” Huizenga told Variety.  

Huizenga noted that the slow rollout does make the fight for the vaccine more understandable.  

“You can’t really blame them for pulling out all the stops. The state and the government have set up a system that is really horrendous,” Huizenga said.  

While many elite executives enrolled in UCLA’s executive health program, these executives do not have access to large vaccination sites nearby.  

“UCLA is operating extremely by the book and hasn’t given a single shot to the concierge patients,” one member of the service said. 

A spokesperson for UCLA said: “Philanthropic support is in no way a criterion to determine vaccine candidacy, and no program or options exist to bypass vaccination priorities at UCLA Health. We are following the direction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and prioritizing health care workers, followed by patients 65 and older and facing the greatest risk based on their medical conditions. As supplies increase and guidelines expand, we are prepared to increase the number of people being offered an opportunity to be vaccinated.”

However, as the scramble for the vaccine continues, some in the entertainment industry took matters into their own hands.  

Variety reported

Harrison Ford spent two-and-half hours in line at El Camino Community College in Torrance, Calif., last week, after booking his own appointment. A rep for the 78-year-old star declined to comment further but sent along his thanks to the healthcare professionals and volunteers on the ground. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the 73-year-old former Republican governor of California, recently shared a similar experience in East Los Angeles on his social media accounts. Oscar-nominated producer Frank Marshall, 74, tweeted a photo of his vaccination documents last Thursday, received at a Kroger supermarket. Steve Martin documented his wait at New York’s Javitz Center.

Not everyone in Hollywood is jockeying for the top of the list and have expressed their concern that some executives would use their power at the expense of healthcare workers and everyday citizens. 

Dr. Art Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at the NYU School of Medicine, added: “It’s bad behavior. It should not be condoned. We should find ways to penalize it. We’ve got 91-year-olds waiting, health care workers waiting. People who are wealthy can easily find ways to quarantine, mask, and stay isolated for another month or two, and more vaccines will become available.”