Hospital boss caught offering Rotary Club preferential coronavirus vaccines

Valga Hospital.
Valga Hospital. Source: ERR

The head of Valga Hospital in South Estonia has been trying to give preferential treatment to members of international ethical and humanitarian service organization Rotary International in administering coronavirus vaccines at the hospital he manages. The Tartu branch of Rotary International, known informally as the Rotary Club refused his approach, which comprised vaccinations sufficient for around a dozen potential individuals, Baltic News Service reports.

Margus Ulst, the hospital's director and a member of the Rotary Club's Tartu chapter himself, made the club the offer, for its senior members, despite a strict national plan for coronavirus vaccination having been established.

Ulst does not deny making the offer, saying that just over 100 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTEch vaccine had arrived at their hospital in an initial delivery. Some front-line healthcare workers had already been inoculated, he said.

Hospital director: The coronavirus vaccine waiting line was short

A surplus arose when it was discovered on vial of the Pfizer vaccine was good for six does and not the five initially accounted for, and, combined with refusals from eligible recipients, Ulst planned to use this for the Rotary Club members, he said.

Ulst said: "The line for vaccination at Valga Hospital was relatively short. There were many who refused, so there was a risk that some of the vaccine could go to waste."

Ulst directed his offer to Tõnu Loog, president of the Rotary Club's Tartu chapter, on January 7, BNS reports.

Rotary Club knocks back line-jumping offer

"I wrote to the club president asking if such a thing could be possible that at-risk club members could be vaccinated with the vaccine about to go to waste," he said, adding that about 10 left-over doses were available, but Loog and the Rotary Club refused to take him up on his offer.

"Of course, there was an ethical conflict in this, but the alternative would have been to leave the vaccines in bottles," Ulst added, saying that all Valga Hospital staff had been vaccinated in line with their wishes, and the availability of the vaccines had been publicized internally, before he approached the Rotary Club.

Others at the hospital had received inoculations at Tartu University Hospital, Valga Hospital's parent facility, he said.

Ulst added that he had learned his lesson from the episode, saying that while he acted in the best intentions, he conceded it did not look good from the outside.

Priit Perens, chairman of the board of University of Tartu Hospital, says that a newly-launched internal investigation will ascertain the details of the incident.

Rotary International has 1.2 million members worldwide, and seeks to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, save mothers and children, support education and grow local economies, among other activities, the organization says on its website.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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