Ernest Brown is a physician and the founder of Doctors to You, a concierge-medicine group in Washington (whose house calls start at $600 a pop). We spoke to him about what it’s like fielding calls from high-profile clients who want the vaccine, but aren’t yet eligible—and aren’t used to hearing no.
“It’s a fever pitch. It’s similar to what it was like when the pandemic first started, and people wanted to get tested. It’s the same thing with this vaccine—it’s just been abysmal, and I think that’s led a lot of people to try and find avenues any way they can to get it. I mean, where there’s a will, there’s definitely a way.
“I get easily 50 to 100 calls a day—even from people who’ve never used our service—asking about [vaccines], and I’ve just got to tell them the cold hard facts: I am abiding to what the requirements are. It doesn’t really matter what you might offer me. And once I’ve done my triage and determined you don’t qualify for this initial vaccination round, then you’re not going to buy me. There are some people who say, well, I thought you could do everything, and I’m like, well, yeah, I can do what’s appropriate. I don’t mind saying no to a billionaire. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again.
“There are all kinds of characters, individuals who are like, well, I’ll pay you this much. There’ve been the regular things of oh, you know, should I get the [Sinopharm, available overseas,] and the Pfizer and the Moderna? Some are just so distraught that they want all the vaccines, and that doesn’t make any sense. I had a VIP who wanted to do that, and I advised that that was not necessary. I’m pretty sure they went ahead and did it anyhow.
“I’ve had certain Silicon Valley VIPs—their assistant calls me, and I’m like, look, sorry, they don’t qualify. I know their medical history. That tends to be a problem with certain VIPs—I’m actually talking to everybody [in their entourage] but the client. I haven’t gotten any calls from [assistants] anymore, so I’m pretty sure they got it, but probably nefariously.
“[Someone not qualified to be vaccinated] offered for a private jet to pick me up, take me down to Miami to provide a vaccine. [They’d] pay for the fee, pay for the full day, and then they had surplus on top of that. So a significant amount. But I wasn’t taking it. There’s one that wants me to do it in France. He has higher risk, but for whatever reason, he’s not able to get it. I don’t know if he was sending his plane, or just giving me a ticket for a ride there and back.
“I have people who are traveling internationally to get it because they can’t get it here. I’ve got clients who are traveling to Europe, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Turkey—they’re all fleeing to get the vaccine and come back. [It’s] Americans that do business there. There’s one that does business in Dubai, and he’s like, look, I can’t get it here. I might as well go there and get it. And, you know, he flies first class every time he flies, and he’s like, yeah, no big deal. I’ll just go and come back the same day. And he has to do it again, because, you know, he has to get the vaccine 21 days later.
“I certainly applaud people for trying. But these vaccines have been very tightly controlled. I’ve got my certain clients and they are expecting everything to just happen, and they’re frustrated when they’re told no.
“The vaccine is not the only answer. It’s just one tool. People still need to adhere to the safe practices. Get one vaccine, keep yourself healthy, exercise, eat right, get sleep, stop stressing as much as possible, and you’ll be okay.”