Wealthy Southern California patients seeking coronavirus vaccine

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Some wealthy Southern California A-listers are trying to jump to the front of the line in an effort to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Some attempting to leverage their power and influence and others are offering five-figure donations to hospitals to gain access. 

Health care workers and nursing home residents are slated to receive the vaccine first. They will be followed by essential workers and people over 75. Doctors at medical practices that cater to exclusive clientele told Fox News that some of their patients are inquiring how they can be prioritized as doses remain limited. 

Dr. David Nazarian, of My Concierge MD Exclusive Health in Beverly Hills, said his office is fielding multiple calls each day about the availability of the vaccine but said he will follow pubic health guidelines to determine who is considered a priority. 

"We've had patients offer to pay large amounts of money … make donations to charities or hospital institutions," he said. "My job is to follow the ethics and make sure that the people who are supposed to get the vaccine first … and at the same time I'm working extremely hard to get as many vaccines so that once these different phases progress to be able to get it for our clients and patients."

Dr. Jeff Toll, who has admitting privileges at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and whose clientele includes entertainers and chief executives, recalled a patient asking: "If I donate $25,000 to Cedars, would that help me get in line?"

Toll said no, the Los Angeles Times reported. He did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.  

California is distributing 327,000 doses of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer throughout the state. Statewide, Southern California has become the epicenter for COVID-19, with infections and hospitalizations surging in recent weeks. 

Access to the shot for wealthy patients could be as easy as being a member of an exclusive healthcare group that offers the type of flexible care most people can't afford, according to the Times. Some are on waiting lists with concierge doctors who charge as much as $25,000 annually for 24-hour availability. 

"People who are successful and used to having a lot of control and access are scared," Dr. Abe Malkin, founder of Concierge MD LA, told Fox News. 

"I certainly always want to help my patients as much as I possibly can," Malkin said. "But at the same time, I weigh that with public health interests. I think for the entire community getting the vaccine to who need it most is most important. This is one of those rare times when finances and other elements aren't as important." 

He added that doctors are bound by ethics to determine who gets priority.

Both Malkin and Nazarian have applied to be distributors for the recently approved Moderna vaccine, which does not have the same temperature storage requirements as the one manufactured by Pfizer. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom warned this month that the state will be aggressive in making sure those with influence are not receiving the vaccine at the expense of those who need it first. 

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"To those that think they can get ahead of the line, and those that think because they have resources, or they have relationships that will allow them to do it. We will be monitoring that very, very, closely," he said. 

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