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While seniors wait, young, healthy, non-frontline hospital workers are getting vaccine

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    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — You may have seen them on social media: young, healthy, non-frontline employees of Vanderbilt posting that they’re getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

You may have wondered: how is that possible when so many high-risk seniors are struggling in Tennessee to find the vaccine?

The answer comes in an email, obtained by News4 Investigates, allowing all hospital employees, even those not on the front lines, to get the vaccine.

The email, sent December 29, 2020, from Dr. Wendy Long, President, and CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association, that the state department of health has approved that all hospital employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the email, hospitals are urged to continue to place the highest priority on those directly treating patients, especially if those not on the front lines are willing to wait.

A spokeswoman for Vanderbilt emailed to say they are simply following the guidance of the state.

Linda Saliba, a former nurse whose high-risk husband has not received the vaccine, said she’s frustrated.

“(My husband) has a serious illness he’s diabetic, he has a blockage for one of the arteries that feed his intestine. Other people who don’t have direct contact with patients – I don’t think they should be getting priority over seniors,” Saliba said.

Rebecca Kelly, state director of the AARP, said young, non-frontline hospital workers getting the vaccine comes when many high-risk seniors cannot find it.

“We can’t speak on behalf of hospitals; they have their own rules and reasons for doing things. Our advocacy efforts have been focused on making sure the oldest people in each category receive that inoculation first,” Kelly said.

News4 Investigates repeatedly reached out to the state health department and the Tennessee Hospital Association for comment but have yet to hear back.

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