Coronavirus Vaccine: Philly Moving to Phase 1B

Phase 1B includes frontline essential workers and people at high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

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Philly is planning to shift its vaccination efforts toward frontline workers and people with high-risk health conditions this week, as the bulk of high priority health care workers have received their shots.

The city previously said it would move to Phase 1B of the coronavirus vaccine rollout on Jan. 25. That move will now start this week, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley told reporters Tuesday.

"Effective today, we are asking hospitals and federally qualified health centers that have vaccine to start offering vaccine to their patients with the highest risk of the conditions that meet our definition of Phase 1B," Farley said.

Those conditions include age above 75, cancer, chronic kidney disease, patients who have had an organ transplant, and diabetes.

"This is not all the high-risk medical conditions that are listed on our priority scheme. We're going to recommend expanding to more later, but we're just beginning now."

In the city, 93,000 people are over the age of 75, and over 130,000 people have diabetes.

"Even if only some of those people want vaccine, it's going to take many weeks to get through that list," Farley said.

The hospitals and federal health centers will invite patients in to receive their shot.

As the hospitals work through vaccinating people at the highest risk, the city will begin vaccinating frontline workers. The city is starting with corrections officers, firefighters, police officers, service providers for vulnerable populations, and public transit workers.

"It's going to take us a few weeks to get through those groups," Farley said.

Farley said the city cannot get to food service workers, educators or child care workers yet, but those groups will be notified when it's time. Educators will be contacted through their employer.

In Philly, Phase 1B includes people in congregate settings, over age 75, or with high risk medical conditions under age 75. Also included are frontline essential workers, defined as:

  • First responders
  • Transit workers
  • Food prep, service and distribution
  • Teachers and education workers
  • "High-volume essential retail" workers - auto shops, pharmacies, hardware stores, big box stores and gas stations are listed as examples in city plans.
  • Manufacturing essential goods

A vaccination plan released on the city's website says "there will be overlap between Phases 1A and 1B as efforts are still underway to vaccinate unaffiliated healthcare workers."

It also cautions that "there is currently a limited supply of vaccine, so early vaccination efforts are focusing on healthcare workers, frontline and essential personnel, and persons at highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19."

As the first doses of Pfizer and Moderna came in, hospitals and health systems set up clinics to vaccinate their staffs. At the same time, Philly's health department gave doses to local pharmacies as part of a federal plan to get nursing home workers and residents vaccinated.

So far, pharmacists visited 35 of 46 skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes), the city says. Later this month, the pharmacy group will begin trips to 53 assisted living facilities. The groups will visit multiple times, as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two shots to be most effective.

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