The community COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Pa. Convention Center

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Update, Jan. 15: Billy Penn has confirmed the sign-up site is not being run by the City of Philadelphia. It is run by, and the information goes to, Philly Fighting COVID.

Update, Jan. 19: Philadelphia announced it’s rolling out its own sign-up site for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Update, Jan 21: The Health Department says it will work with Philly Fighting COVID and other organizations with sign-up pages to ensure the information is all consolidated into one central database. Here’s more om what we know (and what we don’t) about the city’s registry.

Update, Jan. 25: After Billy Penn and WHYY reported Philly Fighting COVID switched to a for-profit model and dropped community testing partners, the city has cut them off. People who got first doses with PFC will be moved to a new provider, the Health Dept. says.

Original story below

Hall F of the Pennsylvania Convention Center is making a name for itself as the most important room in Philadelphia.

Home to the city’s ballot counting operation that helped decide the election two months ago, the vast exhibit hall at 12th and Arch streets now holds Philly’s first mass community COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

Divided into zones that optimize the 125,000-square-foot space for safety and efficiency, the facility is being run by the folks behind Philly Fighting COVID, in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

The organization, known as PFC, has also launched the city’s first sign-up site, where Philadelphians who want to get vaccinated can enter their info in advance.

“We’ve all been through a lot. But right now we have a chance to make the future better,” PFC says on its website. “The best way to stay up to date about when it’s your turn is to pre-commit to get your vaccine here.”

Friday morning, the Convention Center began inoculating the city’s 15,000 home health care workers, a subset of the “phase 1a” group, alongside hospital and other medical staff.

The clinic is intended to help speed the vaccine rollout, which has been slower than hoped across the country. Earlier this week, Philadelphia had used only 40% of its supply, Health Commissioner Tom Farley said. Asked about the lag, Farley blamed it on startup logistics, the recent holidays, and lack of funding from the federal government.

“There’s gonna be some initial process in setting up that inventory,” he said Tuesday. “All this is being done … by a public health system that has received zero federal funds for the dissemination of the vaccine.”

The new relief package passed by Congress earmarks $8 billion for vaccinations, but the money hasn’t yet gone out to cities and states.

Designed to vaccinate 300% more people than current pace

Philly Fighting COVID estimates the Center City pop-up will be able to inoculate between 100 and 450 people each hour, for a total of 1k to 4.5k people daily.

That would be a big boost. Currently the shots are given to an average of around 1,500 Philadelphians a day, according to health department data.

If that pace stayed the same, Commissioner Farley said, it could take until the end of 2021 for the whole city to get vaccinated. Hence the pop-up clinic, the first of several PFC has planned. When Philly gets enough doses to move beyond health care workers and into the next phase, you could be vaccinated there.

You can sign up online at the PFC edition of COVIDreadi, a portal for vaccine distribution planning. To clarify, this particular site is for Philadelphians only, and it does not reserve a place in line.

When you enter your info — including name, contact info, birth date, zip code, profession, and household members — you’re not exactly “registering,” since you’re not making an appointment and get no confirmation of a vaccination date.

When you pre-commit, you will:

  • Help PFC and the city decide where to set up clinics — expediting the rollout
  • Get an alert when people in your phase are being welcomed for vaccinations
  • Receive regular updates about the status of vaccine administration across the city

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...