ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Is a key to getting vaccinated who you know? News 4 has learned the husband of a top St. Louis County Health Department official got a shot, despite not having an appointment.
“It’s an abuse of power. It’s an issue that she used her privilege to get her husband vaccinated,” said one Health Department employee, who wanted to be anonymous, concerned about their job. Spring Schmidt was, until very recently, the co-Director of the County Health Department. On February 8, she got her shot, as scheduled. But her husband also received one that day. Unlike Schmidt, he did not have an appointment.
"It’s her bringing her spouse, like it's family and friends day at a discount store,” said the employee. This employee says it put them all in an uncomfortable position. “She asked, ‘can I get my spouse vaccinated too,’ well, are we supposed to say no to our director of the health department?” she said.
Dr. Faisel Khan now heads the Health Department, as of Monday. Schmidt, who was only interim Director is now the Deputy Director.
“I have investigated the matter and reached the conclusion that this was pure happenstance. It was misconstrued and misrepresented as something else,” Dr. Khan said, when asked. He says it was neither unethical or inappropriate for Schmidt’s husband to receive the shot. Khan says Schmidt's husband was with her to drive her home at the end of the day.
“She was informed there were 3-4 doses left over. And at that point someone said, ‘hey your husband is eligible,’ she checked and made sure, doubly, it was okay, not reserved for anyone else, that's how it happened,” Khan said.
According to an email sent to County employees on January 22, protocol allows for employees' family members to nominate two family members to receive leftover doses that otherwise would go to waste, but only if they are pre-registered and in an eligible tier. Khan says Schmidt’s husband was both.
“If this person didn't meet the criteria, there wouldn't have been a conversation at all,” Khan said. “There is no jumping the queue, there is no getting ahead in line, and just because you happen to work for the county or happen to know someone who works for the county you will not jump the line, in fact, our instructions to staff are very clear, no one gets to jump the line,” he said.
But, the protocol also says the Department of Public Health "will equitably prioritize all nominees by risk criteria." Employees say others should have been considered before Schmidt's husband. At a time when so many people are desperate for a vaccine, the employee who spoke to News 4 says the public is right to question.
“We work for the people, we are public servants so yes, I think they should know," said the employee. Khan told News 4 they do not encourage people to come to the health department at the end of the day to see if vaccine is left over, which he says is rare.
Still, he adamantly stands by what happens, saying, it's exactly what is happening in vaccine distribution in both the private and public sector: if there's vaccine about to go in the garbage, get it in an arm instead.