Close-up image of vaccination being given in upper arm of older individual

A Florida-based operator has agreed to settle claims that it violated the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program by vaccinating ineligible people despite “strongly denying” the allegations. 

The $1.75 million agreement between MorseLife Health System Inc. and the Department of Justice was announced Friday. MorseLife in a statement to McKnight’s said it “chose to settle this matter to avoid the expense and distraction of protracted litigation.” 

The case stems from the provider’s first vaccination clinic on Dec. 31, 2020, for residents and staff at its skilled nursing facility. The DOJ alleges that MorseLife knew the pharmacy partnership program covered only long-term care residents and staff but invited and facilitated vaccination of “hundreds of ineligible persons at the clinic by characterizing them as staff and volunteers.”

Federal investigators also claimed that many of the ineligible people who received vaccines were either donors or targeted by MorseLife for donations. 

“MorseLife’s CEO allegedly directed the MorseLife Foundation, the organization’s fundraising arm, to invite donors and potential donors to the vaccination clinic, encouraging Foundation employees to take advantage of the vaccination opportunity to target billionaires and millionaires for donations,” investigators said.

“MorseLife’s CEO allegedly allowed the vice chairman of the MorseLife Health Systems Inc. Board and his brother to invite approximately 290 people to the vaccination clinic, none of whom lived or worked on the MorseLife campus and most of whom did not volunteer on MorseLife’s campus and had no prior affiliation with MorseLife,” they later added. 

Ultimately, federal authorities alleged that 976 people were vaccinated at the Dec. 31, 2020, clinic — with 567 of them ineligible to participate in the program. 

A MorseLife spokesperson said its top priority is to promote and protect the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone in its community and the staff. They added that the vice chairman and his brother “acted in the best interest of the community to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“Importantly, any nursing home resident or staff member who wanted the vaccine and was eligible according to federal and state guidelines at that time received it free of charge,” the spokesperson said. “The resolution of this matter enables us to continue pursuing our mission and will have no impact on MorseLife’s operations and programs.”