NEW YORK — Some of New York's biggest companies, including Wall Street giants Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, received doses of swine flu vaccine for at-risk employees, drawing criticism that the hard-to-find vaccine is going first to the privileged.
Hospitals, universities and the Federal Reserve Bank also got doses of the vaccine for employees who need it the most, such as pregnant women or chronically ill workers, reports the city's health department.
In order to receive the vaccine, companies had to have their own medical staff. Distributing large doses of the vaccine to such businesses is "a great avenue for vaccinating people at risk," said Jessica Scaperotti, spokeswoman for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, sent a letter Thursday to state and local health departments asking them to review their distribution plans to ensure the vaccine is getting to high-risk groups.
Dr. Thomas Frieden said any decisions that appear to send vaccine beyond high-priority groups "have the potential to undermine the credibility of the program."
Swine flu vaccine has been in short supply nationwide because of manufacturing delays, resulting in long lines at clinics and patients being turned away at doctor's offices. The vaccine started trickling out in early October, and there are now nearly 36 million doses available.
The government-funded vaccine is being distributed to states, where health departments decide where to send the limited doses.
In statements, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs said the vaccine would only go to those in high-risk groups.
Morgan Stanley received 1,000 doses of the vaccine for its New York and suburban offices, but the company turned over its entire supply to local hospitals when it learned it received shipments before some area hospitals, spokeswoman Jeanmarie McFadden said.