Health Official Resigns Over Philly Fighting COVID Deal

The city said Dr. Caroline Johnson acted inappropriately by sharing information about the city's vaccine proposal plan with some applicants but not others.

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Philadelphia's second-in-command health official resigned Saturday as the city spent more time in the spotlight over a failed deal with a coronavirus vaccine provider.

Dr. Caroline Johnson, the city's acting deputy health commissioner, stepped down after it was revealed she gave information about a proposal to two vendors - Philly Fighting COVID and the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium - health department spokesman James Garrow confirmed to NBC10.

The city was soliciting proposals from vendors who could run a vaccination clinic and administer shots, if the city provided them with doses of either Pfizer or Moderna's vaccine. Philly Fighting COVID was among the first to open a mass vaccination clinic under that program.

In an email obtained by NBC10, Johnson wrote to Philly Fighting COVID's CEO, Andrei Doroshin, giving him advance notice of the request for proposals, and advice on which costs to submit.

"Please submit a budget for about $500,000 to start. This is being funded by the City initially. We are hoping that significantly more funds can be awarded if Congress ever passes the covid relief bill, but we need to start conservatively," Johnson wrote.

Garrow said Johnson should not have shared certain information with some, but not all applicants.

"These actions were inappropriate because the information shared was not available to all potential applicants," Garrow said in a statement.

Garrow said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley would refer the matter to the city's Inspector General.

"While these actions may have been intended to help advance the City’s vaccine distribution effort, the Health Commissioner has accepted her resignation in the best interest of the city," Garrow wrote.

Philly Fighting COVID, under the name Vax Populi, Inc., sent the city a proposed budget of $8.5 million for a 6-month clinic, according to documents reviewed by NBC10.

The health department has said it had not reviewed that proposal as it awaited federal funding. Vendors began their vaccine clinics despite agreements not being signed - or reviewed.

Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin defends his group and points to the city of Philadelphia’s “dirty power politics” as the reason why the city cut ties with the group. NBC10’s Lauren Mayk reports.

The national spotlight first landed on Doroshin as Philly Fighting COVID's clinics were underway, capable of vaccinating 1,000 people per day. In total, they administered more than 6,700 shots before the city cut ties, amid reports that Doroshin, 22, had taken doses of vaccine for friends and administered it to them.

In a press conference Friday, Doroshin had called for Johnson to replace Farley as head of the health department. Farley has weathered a storm of political pressure so far; a panel of Pennsylvania state legislators called on him to resign Friday, but Mayor Jim Kenney said earlier that day he is sticking by Farley.

As the Philly Fighting COVID situation continues to unfold, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley explains how the group was given the green light. NBC10 Investigative Reporter Mitch Blacher has the details.

The department was ordered to complete a report detailing how the city came to work with Philly Fighting COVID.

The company received no money for vaccinations, but was paid for testing sites it ran before shifting to vaccines. Garrow previously said the city had not paid three testing-related invoices to Philly Fighting COVID because of "incomplete documentation and duplicative time sheets."

NBC10's Lauren Mayk contributed to this report.

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