Philly Fighting COVID

Legislators Call for Health Commissioner to Resign Over Vaccination Debacle

A group of Pennsylvania state representatives and senators called on Philly Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley to resign amid concerns about the vaccine provider Philly Fighting COVID. Mayor Jim Kenney stood by Farley earlier that day.

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State legislators on Friday called for the resignation of Philly's top doctor, citing "missteps and missed opportunities" in the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, including the now-severed relationship with a vaccine administrator.

Philly has already cut ties with Philly Fighting COVID, a group that handled mass vaccination clinics before it was revealed that its CEO took doses for his friends and reincorporated as a for-profit venture, raising concerns about use of patient data.

But legislators say Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley should resign to ensure confidence in the city's vaccine rollout going forward.

"In a moment when people's lives are in jeopardy and when the world is watching, we cannot have such horrible decisions putting the lives and health of our citizens so at risk," Rep. Jason Dawkins said in a statement.

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In a livestreamed press conference, Dawkins said the health department needs to ensure it's allaying, not contributing to, "suspicion about the process."

The city will publish a public report on how Philly Fighting COVID came to work with the city's health department and handle 5% of its vaccine supply, Mayor Jim Kenney wrote in a letter to Farley on Friday.

In an interview with NBC10's Mitch Blacher, Farley said he and his staff will work hard to regain trust.

"This is a very unprofessional organization that is not trustworthy," Farley said. "It was clearly a mistake to have partnered with them."

But he cautioned against adding extra layers of security to the process to "make sure every single dose never goes to someone that it shouldn't."

"That would slow down the process and many people appropriately would be upset by that."

In the letter, Kenney directed Farley to give doses that were set aside for PFC to instead be given to the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, which gets a share of doses from the city and runs clinics in the community.

City leaders had already promised that anyone who received their first dose from Philly Fighting COVID will get their second dose, but it was not immediately clear who would administer those shots. In the letter, Kenney orders the health department to provide those shots.

"I direct PDPH take the responsibility of holding clinics to ensure that everyone who received their first dose from PFC gets their second doses on time and from professionals who are qualified to administer it. I’d also like to tour the first clinic so I can observe the operation," Kenney wrote.

The health department will also have to produce a report detailing how it began working with Philly Fighting COVID on testing and vaccinations.

"Please identify any and all weaknesses in the vetting process that could have prevented the present outcome, and provide a set of improvements you intend to make to ensure all future partners can deliver these precious services in a safe, equitable and professional manner," Kenney wrote.

Farley told NBC10 time will be set aside for everyone in the department to talk to the staffer writing the report.

"Everybody here is going to talk to that person and give them all the information they need," Farley said. "Whether you consider information embarrassing or inconsequential, you’re going to have to give them all the information they need."

He was asked if the department was capable of investigating itself.

“This is what the mayor asked us to do. If the mayor felt this needed an external investigation he could have done that. I believe we can," Farley said.

The mayor said Farley and his team "have my confidence, and most importantly, the full force of the City government at your disposal to complete this latest, and vital, mission."

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