Philly’s coronavirus response

Philly announces COVID-19 vaccine sign-up: Here’s what we know (and what we don’t)

The city launched its own site, but said it will work with other organizations that’ve already collected personal data.

A health care worker receives a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at Penn

A health care worker receives a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at Penn

Daniel Burke Photo&Video
michaelawinberg-2020-2

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Philadelphia launched on Thursday an official form for residents and employers to indicate interest in getting COVID-19 vaccinations.

This new registry is the first that’s actually operated by the city’s Department of Public Health. Its launch comes just weeks after a start-up called Philly Fighting COVID opened a similar portal that appeared to be affiliated with the city, but the group has since been kicked out of the city’s vaccine distribution plan. The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium also has a sign-up form, as does Acme Markets.

Contrary to what officials indicated earlier this week, the Health Department will work with those organizations to ensure the information is all consolidated into one central database, according to the announcement.

The city portal is basically your opportunity to tell Philadelphia officials that you want immunization as soon as you can get it. It’s not an official registration for an inoculation appointment, and it does not reserve your place in line.

Because of limited vaccine supply, it could be weeks or months before you’re notified that an appointment is available. You might not even hear back at all for a while.

Here’s a look at what we know about the vaccine registry situation, and what is still unclear.

How will I know when I’m eligible to get the vaccine?

There’s no timeline right now for when different groups of Philadelphians will be eligible for the vaccine. But if you enroll in the city’s registry, you should be alerted when it’s your turn.

When is the city’s vaccine registry going live?

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley first announced the city sign-up on Wednesday, Jan. 19. It went live two days later, on Thursday, Jan. 21.

How do I sign up?

The portal is located at phila.gov/vaccineinterest.

It’s available in both Spanish and English, but only accessible for people with an internet connection.

What about people who don’t have internet or a smartphone?

The city is planning outreach to populations who aren’t internet connected, Farley said, but for now the sign-up is online only.

What happens after I sign up?

Nothing right away. You’re just registering to “express interest” in being vaccinated, per Farley. The online portal won’t get you an appointment, or even a general timeline.

Ultimately, the registry should notify you when you’re eligible to receive the vaccine.

Why is the Health Department saying this will “reserve your place in line”?

It’s not like the registry is first come, first served. What the city means with this “line” terminology is that by providing more information, you’ll help them more accurately determine when you should receive the immunization.

“We’re encouraging folks to tell us about themselves so we can assign them to a phase,” said Health Department spokesperson Jim Garrow. “For example, if someone in Phase 1c doesn’t tell us that they’re prioritized, we won’t know about them and can’t reach out. No one will be contacted until they are eligible, until we’ve reached ‘their place in line.'”

Wait, but I thought I already registered for something?

You might have. The organization Philly Fighting COVID opened a vaccine registry and started distributing doses at the Pennsylvania Convention Center a couple weeks ago. But that’s independently run, and separate from the city’s registry. But after PFC revealed its for-profit arm and halted its community testing services, the Health Department severed its relationship with the organization and announced it would stop providing them with vaccine doses.

So what’s the relationship between the city and Philly Fighting COVID?

The Health Department was providing the PFC vaccination site with roughly 1,000 doses per week — but as of Jan. 25, PFC has been cut off from receiving any more doses.

Should I register for both? What about the other registries?

Don’t sign up for Philly Fighting COVID’s registry. They won’t be receiving any new doses, and they recently updated their privacy policy to indicate that they can sell your data.

It’s unclear if there’s a benefit to signing up with registries from other groups. Health Department officials have said they will work with other “pre-registration” sites to make sure they have access to the information already collected by other organizations.

Is my data safe?

Data collected by the city form is kept using the same level of security as other health information maintained by the Department of Public Health, the city said.

Philly Fighting COVID’s site has a generic privacy policy that appears to have been lifted from a generator, privacy lawyer Kirk Nahra told WHYY. People worried about use of data they entered into the site can contact the Pa. Attorney General to complain and suggest an investigation, the lawyer said.

For other registries, it’s unclear what security measures are being taken.

I’m an essential employee. How should I sign up?

The city registry includes boxes you can check to indicate that you’re an essential worker.

How long will it take for me to hear back about my vaccine appointment?

Farley said those who register with the city likely won’t hear back for weeks, if not months.

When will I actually get vaccinated?

The city doesn’t have a specific timeline for immunizations yet. But we do know the order in which Philadelphians are expected to be vaccinated. Here’s a breakdown.

Who will administer the vaccines?

The city has issued a request for proposals for potential vaccine clinics — so stay tuned for more info on this one.

Hospitals, health systems, and pharmacies will also be distributing doses, and the Black Doctors’ Consortium is running vaccine sites at various community centers.

Some large employers that have in-house medical facilities will also be giving shots, according to Farley. He also indicated that eventually people with chronic conditions should be able to get the vaccine through their doctors, but it’s unclear when that will happen.

“There is no reason to call your personal health care provider to ask about setting an appointment,” the city’s announcement said.

WHYY health reporter Nina Feldman and Billy Penn’s Max Marin contributed reporting.

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s coronavirus response stories.

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