What to Know
- A 16-page report from Philadelphia's Inspector General found that the city's health department failed to exercise due diligence and ignored numerous red flags while working with Philly Fighting COVID.
- The report also found that Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley did not violate any laws during the city's partnership with the group.
- In a response to the report, Mayor Jim Kenney said he believed the Inspector General’s findings “accurately reflect the mistakes that were made.” He also said he fully accepted the recommendations.
While Philadelphia’s Health Department failed to exercise due diligence and ignored numerous red flags before asking Philly Fighting COVID to run its mass vaccination clinic, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley did not violate any laws during the city’s partnership with the group, according to a new report from Inspector General Alexander DeSantis.
DeSantis released a 16-page report on the investigation into the city health department’s relationship with Philly Fighting COVID, the group that was trusted with thousands of the city’s initial coronavirus vaccine doses despite being led by a 22-year-old Drexel University graduate with no medical experience.
DeSantis said Philly Fighting COVID was initially contracted for coronavirus testing and that contract was properly awarded. The Health Department had a hard time getting financial paperwork from its partner, however.
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Health Department staff described Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin as “unprofessional” and “aggressive,” according to the report. The report also said Philly Fighting COVID didn’t do a very good job keeping track of who it tested. The group tested just shy of 16,000 people and the city paid more than $111,000 for that work.
DeSantis said he reached out to Doroshin for comment during the report but Doroshin declined to participate because of legal liability.
The Inspector General said Philly Fighting COVID switched from non-profit to for-profit as it got into the vaccination game.
City officials said they initially gave Doroshin the task because he and his friends had organized one of the community groups that set up COVID-19 testing sites throughout the city last year. But they shut the vaccine operation down once they learned that Doroshin had switched his privacy notice to potentially sell patient data, a development he called a glitch that he quickly fixed.
In January, amid concerns about Doroshin’s qualifications and Philly Fighting COVID's for-profit status, the city shuttered his operation at the downtown convention center and cut ties with the group.
Dr. Caroline Johnson, Philadelphia’s second-highest ranking health official, also resigned in January after it was disclosed that she didn't follow protocol in partnering with the business.
Doroshin also admitted on NBC's TODAY Show in January that he vaccinated friends with the Pfizer doses given to Philly Fighting COVID, despite him not being a nurse nor a licensed health practitioner. He said he did so outside of the clinic his business had run for three weekends at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and without any medical expertise.
The Inspector General report said there was little evidence to suggest that anyone at the Health Department conducted additional research or reconsidered the relationship with Philly Fighting COVID before trusting them with more than 7,200 vaccine doses. DeSantis also said the city only began asking questions when reporters started asking them.
“There was no process to evaluate this company in the context of the vaccine,” DeSantis said. “A lot of those communication failures happened because the department moved forward without formalizing the relationship.”
DeSantis said Philly’s Health Department and its leader, Dr. Thomas Farley, were doing everything they could to get more tests and vaccinations to as many people as quickly as possible.
“This doesn’t excuse abandoning established processes or procedures, but it does provide an important lens through which to view the decision making that took place,” he said.
While the Health Department ensured that the medical staff of Philly Fighting COVID’s leadership were appropriately licensed and qualified to administer vaccinations, they did not follow any formal or structured contracting procedure when working with the group, according to the report.
The report also found that Dr. Farley “acted appropriately within the leadership structure he established” in his department and did not violate any laws, rules or regulations.
The Inspector General still recommended however that the Health Department conduct additional training for all employees involved in the contracting process and enhance transparency in regards to the allocation of the vaccine between them and different city-wide providers.
In a response to the report, Mayor Jim Kenney said he believed the Inspector General’s findings “accurately reflect the mistakes that were made.” He also said he fully accepted the recommendations.
Dr. Farley also responded to the report.
"The Philadelphia Department of Health, acting in a hurry, made a bad decision to work with Philly Fighting COVID for vaccination and while the context of the emergency is important, it shouldn't have happened," Dr. Farley said.
Dr. Farley released details of his plan in response to the Inspector General’s report, which he also said complies with requests in a letter that Kenney sent to the Health Department in January.
He also said the structure of the city's vaccination team has changed.
"Decisions that were once being made by two or three people are now being brought to a much larger group in a more structured way," Farley said.
The Philadelphia Health Department will also now vet every vaccination partner with a standardized process that includes checking licenses as well as the background of a group's leadership and its finances.
“I am confident that Dr. Farley’s plan in response to the IG’s report will avoid any similar issues in the future,” Kenney said. “I remain extremely proud of the Commissioner and his department’s staff for their tireless efforts over the past year, and for his response to this matter.”
DeSantis said the investigation is still ongoing.