‘It’s the Hunger Games Out There’ – Hollywood Elite Scramble for COVID-19 Vaccine

Variety:

Beverly Hills-based Dr. Robert Huizenga confirmed to Variety that his practice has been offered in excess of $10,000 by individuals, including members of the entertainment industry, desperate to get vaccinated.

“UCLA is operating extremely by the book and hasn’t given a single shot to the concierge patients,” one member of the service said. The UCLA executive health program requires a fee and donation to UCLA Medical Center, which costs in the $15,000 to $25,000 range on an annual basis

As coronavirus vaccines trickle out across the country and new infections and deaths rise at alarming rates in cities like Los Angeles, some power players in entertainment and media are leveraging their clout and connections to be amongst the first to get inoculated.

Numerous high-flying executives and dealmakers have been cycling through private physicians and concierge services to receive one of the two established COVID-19 vaccines on the market. Others have been tapping their vast resources in a mad dash to get vaccinated as the government, especially in Hollywood’s native California, churns through a sluggish rollout.

Some efforts to receive the vaccine ahead of schedule do not violate any laws – though they have raised questions of ethics and good taste in exclusive social circles and boardrooms across Los Angeles. It’s also clear that power and wealth, which allow many in the Hollywood community to afford on-demand doctors and access private planes to engage in vaccine tourism, have enabled them to get shots more safely and efficiently than average citizens. It illustrates the gaping chasm that exists between haves and have nots in this country when it comes to healthcare.

Some media heavyweights are openly exploring options outside of the L.A. county health system in what they view as a life-or-death race against the high demand and limited supply of vaccines.

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Beverly Hills-based Dr. Robert Huizenga confirmed to Variety that his practice has been offered in excess of $10,000 by individuals, including members of the entertainment industry, desperate to get vaccinated.

“We’ve been offered bribes. We see people taking planes to every location. 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,” said the physician, who has also appeared as an expert on the NBC weight loss competition show “The Biggest Loser.”

Huizenga said individuals from the entertainment space were well represented in those hustling for an early shot, in a “fight for their lives. You can’t really blame them for pulling out all the stops. The state and the government have set up a system that is really horrendous.”

Hundreds of elite executives, agents and stars are mightily coming down on their top-tier healthcare providers in L.A.’s Westside neighborhoods, where a major vaccination site has yet to be designated. Those enrolled in UCLA’s executive health program (which is or isn’t a concierge health service, depending on who you ask) have been inundating program director Dr. Robert Ansell for information on when they can receive the vaccine.

“It’s ‘The Hunger Games’ out there,” said one top entertainment executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Not all are content to navigate California’s byzantine vaccination process. Allen Shapiro, the 73-year-old former CEO of Golden Globes telecast producer Dick Clark Productions, was reported last week to have flown via private jet to Florida recently in search of the vaccine with friends. Sources tell Variety that Shapiro did fly private — but alone — to Miami. While some reports have decried this as an example of vaccine tourism, insiders said Shapiro owns property and conducts business in Florida. Moreover, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was openly inviting the 65-and-older crowd this month to enjoy his state’s robust vaccine program without a need to verify residency.

AND SOME GOOD GUYS – HARRISON FORD, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

Harrison Ford spent two-and-half hours in line at El Camino Community College in Torrance, Calif., last week, after booking his own appointment. A rep for the 78-year-old star declined to comment further but sent along his thanks to the healthcare professionals and volunteers on the ground.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the 73-year-old former Republican governor of California, recently shared a similar experience in East Los Angeles on his social media accounts. Oscar-nominated producer Frank Marshall, 74, tweeted a photo of his vaccination documents last Thursday, received at a Kroger supermarket. Steve Martin documented his wait at New York’s Javitz Center.

Read more at Variety

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