Hollywood execs accused of using wealth, connections to obtain coronavirus vaccine
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After 10 months into a global pandemic, a coronavirus vaccine is slowly being rolled out to American citizens.
As the vaccine is being distributed by the government, each state has been given the authority to develop a distribution plan, deeming people of certain ages, health restrictions or professions a higher priority for vaccination.
In California, home to showbiz -- which has struggled since the beginning of the pandemic -- healthcare workers and citizens over the age of 65 are eligible to be vaccinated by one of the two approved options, according to Variety.
The rollout plan has widely been criticized for its slow movement, but that hasn't deterred some Hollywood titans from using their own resources -- be it money, fame, connections, or even private planes -- to obtain a vaccine for themselves.
Sources told the outlet that music industry mogul Irving Azoff, 73 and eligible to obtain the vaccine on his own, has been facilitating the vaccinations of those close to him.
"I’m a 73-year-old cancer survivor. I recently had part of my intestine removed. Damn right I received the vaccine, and I’m glad I did," Azoff said in a statement to Variety. "Everyone eligible should get vaccinated as soon as they can."
California's distribution plan for the COVID-19 vaccine has widely been criticized for its slow rollout. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) (Getty Images)
He did not confirm whether anyone else was inoculated.
Newport Beach, Calif. neurological spine surgeon Dr. Robert Bray is said to have recommended the vaccinations of several notable figures, including Azoff. The doctor is making the rounds among powerful circles via referral by the acting chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation Robert Goldstein, sources claimed.
Bray told Fox News' that his practice was not operating as a concierge service and while he has been contacted by industry figures, he hasn't administered vaccines to any of them.
Additionally, he said that his practice was following the state's tier system and was allocating any "extra" doses at the practice's discretion, though such a dose is "very rare."
The doctor said that he knows Goldstein, but told Variety that because of HIPPA, he could not reveal whether he treated his contacts.
Additionally, Dr. Robert Huizenga in Beverly Hills told Variety that his practice has been offered in excess of $10,000 by people -- some of whom entertainment industry employees -- in exchange for a vaccination.
"We’ve been offered bribes. We see people taking planes to every location," he explained. "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."
The doctor added that "You can’t really blame [industry figures] for pulling out all the stops. The state and the government have set up a system that is really horrendous."
Dr. Robert Ansell, program director of UCLA’s executive health program has been bombarded with requests about where to get a vaccination in L.A.’s Westside neighborhoods, Variety reports.
President Joe Biden is hoping for 1.5 million coronavirus vaccines to be administered per day beginning in a few weeks. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ((AP Photo/Alex Brandon))
"UCLA is operating extremely by the book and hasn’t given a single shot to the concierge patients," said a member of the service.
A spokesperson added that "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."
UCLA’s Board of Regents members including United Talent Agency co-president Jay Sures, Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber, and former Paramount Pictures chief Sherry Lansing have reportedly received calls from friends in the industry to inquire about receiving a vaccine.
Lansing told Fox News that "absolutely no one" in or out of the entertainment industry has asked her to cross the line when it comes to receiving a vaccine, and while she has discussed vaccination with contacts, it's been in more of an informal, friend-to-friend conversation rather than in an advisory or informational capacity.
Beverly Hills celebrity pharmacy Mickey Fine has also reportedly told patients via an audio message that they have yet to receive vaccines for distribution.
Insiders also told the outlet that some industry employees such as managers, producers, agents and even directors have turned their focus toward obtaining vaccines for stars' family members.
"It’s ‘The Hunger Games’ out there," said an anonymous industry executive.
Some have chosen to look beyond California for help.
Former Dick Clark Productions CEO Allen Shapiro, 73, reportedly took a private jet to Fla. to search out a vaccine. Vaccination in the state has been a hot button topic as Gov. Ron DeSantis recently allowed patients to be vaccinated without proof of residency, but that was overturned by the state's Surgeon General Scott Rivkees. Sources said that Shapiro owns property in the state.
Former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, 72, recently confirmed that he traveled from New York to Fla. to be vaccinated.
Maui is reportedly another hotspot for travelers to find treatment.
However, it is of note that some of Hollywood's heavyweights are doing their due diligence, as a high-power Hollywood figure was spotted waiting in line at Dodgers Stadium for so long, a witness thought the exec's Tesla might run out of battery power, per the outlet.
In fact, Harrison Ford, 78, booked his own appointment to be vaccinated and waited in line for two and a half hours to be treated while Arnold Schwarzenegger, 73, Steve Martin, 75, and more stars have shared their vaccination experiences online.
"Industry people in these positions should be using their power to help and heal the system, not hurt it," a media executive who once worked as a healthcare employee told Variety.
Dr. Art Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at the NYU School of Medicine, said taking such action was "bad behavior."
"It should not be condoned. We should find ways to penalize it," he said. "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."
Sures did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment while Guber and Goldstein could not immediately be reached.