Chicago's Loretto Hospital, which is at the center of controversy for improperly vaccinating a number of city residents and workers, also vaccinated members of its CEO's suburban church, according to video obtained by NBC 5.
The vaccination event, which was first reported by Block Club Chicago, was held in February, when both Chicago and Illinois expressed concern over a lack of doses.
Oak Forest's Valley Kingdom Ministries International honored Loretto Hospital CEO and President George Miller for his role in bringing the vaccine to the church during a service on Feb. 28. In accepting his award from the church, Miller acknowledges that he and the church's leader are longtime friends.
In a statement, Loretto said Miller "reached out directly to CDPH before the hospital agreed to provide vaccines to eligible recipients at his church."
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"CDPH informed Mr. Miller that as long as the recipients lived, worked, or received medical care in the city and were 1A or 1B-eligible they could be vaccinated," the statement read.
News of the vaccinations came to light as the Chicago Department of Public Health announced it would withhold first doses of the coronavirus vaccine from Loretto Hospital after officials admitted that members of its staff improperly vaccinated employees of Chicago's Trump Tower, as well as more than a dozen Cook County Circuit Court judges.
The CDPH confirmed that it will not send shipments of first doses to the hospital, but said that it will allow residents who received their first dose of the vaccine at the hospital to receive their second doses in the coming days.
"The hospital will not receive first doses until we can confirm their vaccination strategies and reporting practices meet all CPDH requirements," the department said in a statement.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also released a statement, saying that the city "will not tolerate providers who blatantly disregard" CDPH guidelines.
"This life saving vaccine is a precious, but limited resource and one that must be preserved to do the most good," the statement read. "Unfortunately, in recent days, stories have surfaced alleging providers who had an obligation to follow CDPH guidelines, ignored those restrictions and instead allowed well-connected individuals to jump the line to receive the vaccine instead of using it to service people who were more in need."
SEIU Healthcare Illinois President Greg Kelley condemned the city’s decision to withhold vaccine doses, saying that it unfairly punishes individuals who had nothing to do with the decision on which individuals would get shots.
“We call upon the Board of Directors to hold the individuals responsible for breaking vaccine protocols accountable,” he said in a statement. “The dedicated frontline staff of Loretto and the Austin residents dependent upon Loretto in order to receive life-saving COVID-19 vaccinations don’t deserve to suffer as a result of the actions of two people.”
The city says that first dose allocations to the hospital will be paused for the next week, while second dose appointments will be allowed to move forward. It is unclear when the pause on new appointments will be lifted.
Vaccination sites that violate city rules on distribution of the vaccine are subject to removal from the city’s program, according to officials.
After the reports of Trump Tower employees improperly receiving vaccines became public, WBEZ also reported that 13 Cook County Circuit Court judges were given the opportunity to receive the vaccine earlier this month.
Hospital officials told WBEZ that they misunderstood city guidelines on the vaccine, saying that they "erroneously" believed that judges were eligible in the current phase of the city's vaccination plan.
Judges are not eligible to receive vaccines until Phase 1C, according to the publication.
According to the Associated Press, Miller said in a memo to hospital staff that 72 restaurant, hospital and other support personnel at Trump International Chicago were vaccinated by hospital workers. Chicago restaurant workers and hotel staff aren’t currently eligible for the vaccine.
Miller said the workers inoculated earlier this month were largely Black and Brown residents of the community around the hospital who were unable to leave their jobs during regular hours.
"This effort was one of multiple off-site community vaccination initiatives undertaken by The Loretto Hospital in accordance with its mission of ensuring vaccine accessibility to the minority communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the hospital said in a statement.
Miller wrote the hospital was under the mistaken belief restaurant and other frontline hospitality industry workers were considered ‘essential’ under the City of Chicago’s 1B eligibility requirements.
“I now understand, after subsequent conversations with the Chicago Department of Public Health, that we were mistaken,” Miller wrote.
Loretto Hospital, a 122-bed facility in the Austin neighborhood was the site of Chicago’s ceremonial first COVID-19 vaccination. City officials say the community around the hospital was hard hit by COVID-19. One in every 430 people died from the virus in the past 10 months, compared with 1 in every 605 residents citywide, according to the city’s Public Health Department.