A mass vaccination site inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia reopened Wednesday, with hundreds of people lining up for a coronavirus vaccine dose and Mayor Jim Kenney touring the facility.
The restart of the site comes as the city's embattled Public Health Department is trying to move beyond its failed partnership with a private organization called Philly Fighting COVID that had been administering vaccine doses provided by the city last month.
That group, run by 22-year-old Drexel University student Andrei Doroshin, has since been dropped by the city. But the termination of its efforts came with the resignation of the top deputy health official who oversaw Philadelphia's vaccination program and the admission by Kenney and his health secretary, Dr. Thomas Farley, that the city had never signed a contract with Philly Fighting COVID.
The group did administer 7,200 doses over three January weekends, but Doroshin admitted he walked off with Pfizer vaccines and gave the doses to friends. Doroshin has no medical expertise.
Kenney touted the reopening of the convention center site as part of the rollout of six mass vaccination sites across the city this month.
About 500 people were vaccinated Wednesday. That is the number that the city would like to reach each day for the next few weeks, Farley said. After a while, the city hopes to obtain more doses from the federal government and raise that number.
Still, the wait could be "many weeks" for a lot of Philadelphians, Farley said.
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Eligible people in Philadelphia's Phase 1B could get the coronavirus vaccine at one of the six mass clinics starting Feb. 22.
The city's health department will run three first-dose clinics and three second-dose clinics per week with a goal of vaccinating about 500 patients per day.
The health department will reach out to people and ask them to make their appointment. It will go down its list of eligible people in Phase 1B who have filled out the vaccine interest signup form at phila.gov/vaccineinterest. People without reliable internet access or computer skills can get signed up through the city’s COVID Call Center at 215-685-5488.
To be eligible for the vaccine in Philly's Phase 1B, as of Feb. 2 people should fit one of the following groups:
- Over the age of 75;
- With certain high-risk health conditions: cancer, chronic kidney disease, or a recent organ transplant;
- Frontline essential workers like jail staff, first responders and service providers who work with vulnerable people.
- Transit workers are in Phase 1B but are not getting vaccinated in the first part of this phase. Farley said transit workers will be up next.
- The School District of Philadelphia is expected to resume hybrid learning this month, but it's not clear if the vaccines will be made available to teachers by then. Other schools have had in person sessions with sparse reports of in-school spread.