New York City Department of Health Gives $35 Million for Pro-Vax Doctors
I was a school social worker up until New York Mayor Eric Adams and Chancellor of New York City public schools David C. Banks fired me for refusing to submit to a COVID-19 injection. For the five months before being fired, the city refused to pay my salary despite my not having been brought up on any disciplinary charges. They would not allow me to report to work, despite public awareness that our kids have been deeply harmed by over a year of shuttered schools, not seeing friends and family, and being exposed to the stress of the adults around them. New York City says the kids matter most, but it seems what matters most is saving a lot of money off the cost of running public services, as well as pleasing big special interests. Not paying me and 1,430 other teachers and counselors helped them with the first goal; they’ve come up with other ways to accomplish pleasing and making money for big special interests.
For example, large corporations such as pharmaceutical companies. The New York City Department of Health (DOH) has an incentive program for doctors who promote COVID-19 vaccines. It was quietly begun in September 2021 and has been going since with $35 million in taxpayer dollars. The official announcement on its website says it is “supporting” doctors and nurses in their work to get New Yorkers vaccinated. When doctors and nurses talk favorably to patients about taking a COVID-19 vaccine, they get paid. When a patient actually takes a dose, the doctors and nurses get paid. The plan to pay doctors and other medical staff a lot of money to convince New Yorkers to take a COVID-19 vaccine did not get coverage in the press (I’m not sure that news story would have gone over well, so the media did the politicians a favor and didn’t report on it).
This “support” is the payments, which are a significant incentive to convince patients the vaccine is “safe and effective.” There should not be a financial incentive. If the vaccine doesn’t appeal to patients enough on its own for them to take it, that is not remedied by paying doctors and nurses to sell it harder, it is remedied by improving the product. Regardless of your opinion of the COVID-19 vaccines, or how many you have taken, I doubt you are okay with incentivizing doctors to convince you to take a COVID vaccine, or any other medication for that matter. It wasn’t that long ago we discovered how Purdue was paying doctors to push opioids on their patients. We all know the destruction that wrought, destruction we will be feeling in our communities for years to come.
If your doctor is being paid to talk to you about COVID vaccines, and being paid more if they get you to take it, how can you be sure that he or she is giving you objective information about the benefits and the risks?
If you got your COVID-19 vaccine from your regular doctor and he practices in New York City, ask him or her if he got paid from this DOH program for talking to you about, and for giving you, the shot. Ask why he or she didn’t tell you he or she was getting paid. Financially incentivizing vaccine compliance violates the doctor-patient relationship. Just like in other relationships, adding in money makes it hard to assess people’s true motivations. The DOH, a public agency with plenty of lawyers and doctors on staff, knows this and created this program anyway.
This payment to doctors program needs to be stopped immediately. We need to investigate it to determine whether the doctors and clinics who have been paid from it so far have withheld information about the risk of adverse reactions in an effort to convince patients to take the vaccine. See the DOH’s “Use Every Opportunity Tool” at the end of this post; you’ll see that no one gets paid for convincing a patient to not take a COVID vaccine, even if not taking it is medically best for that patient.
If other cities have done the same kind of incentive program, it shows just how much money and human resources have been diverted to COVID-19 vaccines by local Departments of Health, away from programs that help communities with other health issues.
There are some more troubling aspects. The NYC Department of Health provides manufacturer-approved literature to the doctors about effectiveness and benefits, so patients are getting only information that the manufacturer approves of. No patient is being offered information from VAERS, the online Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, for example. Also, the program incentivizes the doctor and his or her staff to solicit any adult that enters the clinic or office, even if that adult is not a patient, for example, the staff can solicit an adult who is accompanying a patient to an appointment. Those adults may have their own doctor who knows the patient’s health profile much better, and who, if he or she were asked, would not have determined the vaccine was right for that patient, or even worse, potentially dangerous.
Additionally, DOH has structured this incentive program so that doctors who accept Medicaid and Medicare have shorter waiting periods for payment for their vaccine promotion activities and for vaccination than doctors who don’t accept these plans. Medicaid and Medicare patients typically have incomes at or below the poverty line. The payment for convincing a low income patient to get vaccinated is quicker than for other patients, which means that as usual, low-income Americans are at greater risk of receiving a medical intervention that is not right for them. The New York City Department of Health is well aware of what it calls health care disparities, and claims it is dedicated to ending them. So why is it incentivizing indiscriminate COVID-19 vaccination of people with low-incomes?
The financial incentive – even the New York City Department of Health uses the word “incentive” in its announcement – turns the doctor into a non-objective advocate for the COVID vaccine, instead of an objective doctor who is weighing the patient’s medical history and present state of health and advising the patient according to the patient’s needs.
In addition to these examples above that raise questions about safety, informed consent, respecting the patient’s relationship with his or her own doctor, and the ethical concerns that paying medical professionals to promote medical products creates, there is the broader concern of a locality setting aside a multi-million dollar allotment of its health budget for this specific program. New York City is diverting money, effort, and staff from other persistent health crises like diabetes, obesity, childhood asthma, hypertension, mental health, and substance abuse, all health crises that have afflicted more people since the COVID era began.
If COVID-19 vaccines are so healthy, the vaccines will sell themselves. Put the $35 million not toward paying doctors to be vaccine salesmen, but toward tangible services to help New Yorkers manage diabetes, lose weight, exercise, eat better and manage stress. How much could we truly help New Yorkers if we used this money for nutrition workshops, raising the food stamp allotment, buying gym memberships for low-income New Yorkers, for example?
And how is it that DOH unilaterally was able to steer $35 million in public funds to paying doctors for COVID shot promotion with no opportunity for the public to decide what to do with the money?
Just as city administrators have used COVID-19 as a reason to neglect ethical labor practices in the name of stopping COVID-19, it appears that with this vaccine incentive program, the NYC Department of Health persists in throwing reason out the window in the area of health policy and patients’ rights, too. It’s time to stop the money train that New York City has created in the name of public health. Nobody’s getting any healthier, but our city’s rich and well-connected are getting way richer.