SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Some fitness trainers in California were able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after state health officials created a loophole that helped them qualify as health care workers.
In January, the California Department of Public Health released updated guidelines on vaccination allocation that classified outdoor recreation as health care, the first tier eligible to get the vaccine along with people over 75. Some fitness clubs jumped at the chance of getting their employees vaccinated, KGO-TV reported Thursday.
"Outdoor recreation was included in Health Care (Health Care/Public Health sector index 1, line item 22). As such, we shared that information with our employees so they could begin the process of receiving vaccinations,” Annie Appel, Senior Executive Vice President at the Bay Club Company, said in a statement.
But last Friday, state health officials updated the rules and they no longer include outdoor recreation as Health Care, Appel said.
"We have also shared this information with our employees and are awaiting further direction from the state for which tier we will be included in,” she added.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he wants to ensure vaccine gets into the arms of those most vulnerable.
“I’m frustrated when people that are wealthier, more connected, more technically savvy get ahead of the line.” Newsom said during a Tuesday news conference.
Still, it took state officials a month to update the rules.
California Department of Public Health officials did not immediately respond Friday to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Kimi Hori, a fitness instructor in Santa Clara County, said she received an email on Jan. 7 telling her she was eligible to receive the vaccine and to make an appointment through their health care provider. But she said she decided not to take it.
“Most people go into fitness because they want to help others but when you’re then taking a vaccine away from other people, you’re not helping others you’re helping yourself. For me, that’s a huge contradiction,” Hori said.
She said she knows of about two dozen fitness trainers who have received the vaccine, including five under the age of 40 who were vaccinated this week despite of the rule change last week. Yet, her 73-year-old mom has still not gotten a vaccine, she said.
“These are people who are strong and healthy and I’m sure they have people in their lives, like their mom, or dad or grandma who can't get it, but still, there is no remorse,” she said.
Anyone who is not eligible to get the vaccine and lies to get one is doing so under penalty of perjury, according to the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office. Perjury is a felony offense in California and punishable by up to four years in prison with a maximum fine of $10,000.