Austrian Jewish community leader sorry for wrongly administered COVID vaccines

The head of Austria’s Jewish community apologizes for COVID-19 vaccine doses that were administered to community members, including himself, who were not meant to receive them.

In a letter to the community, Oskar Deutsch says it was a “mistake” to have included non-priority individuals in the vaccinations administered on Dec. 30 at the Maimonides Center, the Jewish community’s senior home.

It “should not have happened,” Deutsch says. “I myself was invited to receive an inoculation and didn’t refuse. That was a mistake and I apologize.”

The city of Vienna and the Red Cross had teamed up to provide doses to residents and staff of nine senior centers in the city. The doses were meant for older people at greater risk of serious illness from the coronavirus and not for the broader community.

Oskar Deutsch (courtesy)

In his letter, Deutsch says the Maimonides Center had 30 doses left over after 343 residents and staffers were vaccinated. The surplus, he says, resulted from the fact that “vaccination readiness” was lower than expected among staff at the home and that each vial contained up to seven doses instead of the intended five.

“All residents and employees who wanted to be vaccinated were vaccinated,” Deutsch writes.

When the surplus was ascertained, the center’s medical director, Dan Seidler, reached out to ”people from outside the building,” Deutsch says — including elderly community members, physicians and others with preexisting conditions. Deutsch says those invitations led to vaccinations being administered to the grandchildren of community members who were not in any at-risk group.

The Vienna-based Association of Bukharan Jews, Jachad, calls Deutsch’s apology “lip service” and suggests he resign his post.

“Especially in these particularly difficult and challenging times, it is essential to put the ‘we’ ahead of the ‘I’ and to show solidarity,” the group’s chairman, Israel Abramov, writes. “The fact that President Deutsch is misusing this vaccination campaign for his own immunization does enormous damage to the integrity of the office. … [He] should now … draw the necessary conclusions from this moral lapse.”

An email to the board of the Vienna Jewish community signed by several prominent Austrian Jews suggests that the board consider possible “consequences” for the community leaders who were responsible, including resignations.

In the wake of the scandal, the Jewish community launches a “nonbinding” reservation system in which community members older than 65 and others with preexisting conditions can register to be vaccinated.