Innovative Express Care on Wednesday blamed a "communication breakdown" with the city of Chicago after health officials said the clinic "knowingly misallocated" thousands of COVID vaccine doses intended for Chicago Public Schools employees.
The Chicago Department of Public Health on Tuesday announced that it had halted vaccine supply to Innovative Express Care, the health provider contracted to vaccinate CPS employees, after city officials said the provider "administered vaccine to non-CPS individuals without prior authorization."
"Based on CPDH’s review of IEC’s vaccine allocations and administration, we have determined that they knowingly misallocated more than 6,000 doses of vaccine—including using vaccine allocated for second doses for first dose appointments instead," the health department said in a statement. "This is completely unacceptable behavior."
CDPH said it had stopped distribution of vaccine doses to Innovative Express Care and that it would reclaim all vaccine stored with the provider - a decision Innovative Express Care on Tuesday said left them "bewildered, saddened, and frankly disappointed in our local government."
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"All vaccine doses that were not used by CPS at the end of each week went to another eligible patient for their first dose," the clinic said in a statement. "We always ensured that there were enough allocations for additional doses for all CPS employees. We received vaccine allocations each week, and our intention has always been to have a 100% utilization rate in order that every single dose we received was put into the arm of a qualified patient that week. Clearly, we took this idealistic vision very seriously, which meant that doses intended for CPS employees actually went to seniors, frontline essential workers, and other qualified patients. We never departed from the commitment to CPS employees, nor other qualified individuals."
A contract between the Chicago Board of Education and Innovative Express Care, accessed via CPS' procurement website, shows that the district agreed to pay the provider $25 per vaccine administered, up to $5 million. The contract also allows Innovative Express Care to bill patients' insurance providers as well.
The contract was for Innovative Express Care to administer a minimum of 1,5000 doses per week across CPS' four mass vaccination sites - a key portion of negotiations between the district and the Chicago Teachers Union over the return to in-person learning.
CPS announced last week that the district had accessed enough doses of the available COVID-19 vaccines to offer appointments or sign-ups to all 52,000 employees, and that roughly 30% of staff had gotten at least one dose of the vaccine thus far.
The contract between CPS and Innovative Express Care notes, "Vendor shall only use COVID-19 vaccines provided by CDPH at the COVID-19 vaccination centers for individuals identified by CPS as eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines” and says that in the event of excess doses on a given day, vaccines "may be provided to any other CPS employee."
Innovative Express Care said Tuesday that CDPH "never made it clear" that they "should be storing vaccines in a refrigerator for people awaiting second doses."
"Rather, we have been following the nation’s commitment to get as many vaccines in eligible patients’ arms, as quickly as possible. Our mission involved vaccinating as many eligible patients as quickly as possible, and not at the whims of the city official’s latest political crisis," the provider said.
But on Wednesday, Innovative Express Care said they "understand now" the city's expectations of storage for CPS employees' second doses but said a "communication breakdown occurred" and continued to blame the city.
Innovative Express Care said early Wednesday that it received doses both for CPS use as well as separate allocations for clinic use. CDPH said that all vaccine doses would be reclaimed and that the provider "will not be doing any more first dose vaccinations."
Neither Innovative Express Care nor CDPH responded to multiple requests on how many doses the provider had been allocated in addition to those set aside for CPS.
The city said it had identified new providers to take over vaccine administration for those who already have appointments through Innovative Express Care.
"Continuity of operations is our highest priority," CDPH's statement read. "CPS personnel with appointments on Wednesday, March 24 will be rescheduled for the near future and notifications are in progress. CPS personnel with existing appointments on Thursday, March 25 and thereafter will continue to be vaccinated at the same CPS high school site where they were originally scheduled."