(Courtesy image via Philly Fighting Covid)
In the spring, when healthcare centers and hospitals became overrun with COVID-19 patients and testing capacity was low, a group of engineers and scientists formed Philly Fighting Covid (PFC).
The nonprofit, which has been offering free, walk-in and scheduled COVID-19 testing across the city for the last several months, is now taking on a new challenge: helping the City of Philadelphia reach its goal of vaccinating every Philadelphian.
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The news comes Friday after reports that the city still has 60% of its vaccine supply that it has received so far still waiting to be injected.
“We would like to have more vaccines in people’s arms right now but we’re doing the best we can,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said at a press conference.
The vaccines are being distributed to each state based on population size, and Philadelphia is among the country’s large cities to receive and manage its own shipments of the two currently available vaccines. The state breaks down its population into phases. The current 1A phase prioritizes healthcare personnel like doctors and nurses, as well as healthcare workers not directly in charge of patient care, but who could be more readily exposed to the virus. Long-term facility residents are also included in this phase.
But hospitals and healthcare centers — those whose workers are currently prioritized — are already tasked with fighting the pandemic on the frontlines, and distribution of the vaccine has been slower than hoped. The federal government also didn’t approve funding for vaccine planning until late December, after the rollout began.
You can check out the City’s vaccination dashboard for a breakdown of race and gender of those who have received a vaccine. As of Friday afternoon, just under 40,000 Philadelphians had received a vaccine. At its current pace, Farley said Tuesday, it could take the entire year to vaccinate the city’s population.
Enter: Philly Fighting Covid. Local government officials announced a partnership with the nonprofit Friday morning, saying the org would be the first in the city to open a mass vaccine clinic in the currently unused Convention Center. PFC is working with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to inoculate between 100 and 450 patients per hour, or between 1,000 and 4,5000 patients per day.
Today, I joined @PHLPublicHealth and @PhillyFighting for the first mass COVID vaccine distribution clinic in Philadelphia. Up to 2,000 healthcare workers can be vaccinated at this clinic, which is open only to home healthcare workers who have been invited. pic.twitter.com/v5EI9aArMQ
— Jim #MaskUpPHL Kenney (@PhillyMayor) January 8, 2021
The clinic was designed by operational engineers with the ability to be replicated and scaled, and will include a questionnaire prior to arrival for efficiency’s sake. The process should take about 30 minutes, the org said.
Its current goal is vaccinating home healthcare workers or other unaffiliated healthcare workers, like dentists, currently at an invite-only status. The group of people slated to receive the vaccine in the next phase is those over 75 and essential workers who interact with the population daily, or with high-risk individuals. The City’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, with input from more than 40 experts in public health, healthcare, ethics and community leaders, is currently working on developing who, specifically, will be included in this next phase, 1B.
“Over the past six-months, Philly Fighting Covid has worked in lock-step with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to prepare to inoculate everyone who wants a vaccine in Philadelphia,” said the nonprofit’s founder and CEO, Andrei Doroshin, in a statement. “The first community mass vaccination clinic opening today in Philadelphia serves as a blueprint for designing mass clinics across our city and country that ensure maximum safety, efficiency, and patient privacy while administering more than 50 times the daily vaccines that we administered during the H1N1 pandemic.”
The org’s online portal now offers anyone in Philadelphia the chance to enter their information in order to be alerted when their population group will begin being vaccinated. The health department said Friday that everyone is being encouraged to register and pre-commit for a vaccine, so it can develop its plans for further vaccine distribution.
Just signed up/pre-committed to get my #COVID19 vaccine in Philly at https://t.co/kOr55xoGYi & had a flashback to being a teenager & buying concert tickets. I got that same rush of excitement that I was *really* going to get to have this amazing experience! #ScienceForTheWin
— Katy Milkman (@katy_milkman) January 8, 2021
The portal asks for information like age, members of your household, and details about your occupation to determine what phase you may fall in. The portal also has links and information for Philadelphians interested in volunteering at a clinic, those who can offer space to host a clinic, or those who want to request a clinic at their place of business.
“Administering COVID vaccine to every Philadelphian is the single most important thing that we can do to end the pandemic,” Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Caroline Johnson said in a statement Friday. “And by ensuring that those who are at the highest risk of being exposed get vaccinated first, we can help to save lives and protect our healthcare system until everyone has the ability to get a vaccine.”
Pre-committing for a vaccine through the Philly Fighting Covid portal isn’t necessary to receive the vaccine when it’s your turn, but you will receive updates about the status of the vaccine in the city and alerted when people in your phase can begin getting the vaccine.
The partnership and resulting clinic “is a reminder of what can be done when we come together to solve challenges and a promise of more good things to come for the City of Philadelphia,” Doroshin said.
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