Philly’s coronavirus response

Elected officials call for hearings, investigations into Philly Fighting COVID vaccine debacle

Roused by reporting on the startup’s questionable practices, lawmakers beginning to speak out.

Signs on the window of the city's first mass vaccination at the Pa. Convention Center on its opening day, Jan. 8

Signs on the window of the city's first mass vaccination at the Pa. Convention Center on its opening day, Jan. 8

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY
michaelawinberg-2020-2

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn email newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


Local and state officials are clamoring for investigations and issuing strongly-worded condemnations after Philadelphia abruptly severed its relationship with one of its main partners for COVID-19 vaccination.

The Health Department cut off vaccine supply to Philly Fighting COVID, the startup that opened a mass clinic at the Pa. Convention Center, after WHYY and Billy Penn reporters uncovered unsettling info about the company, including its stoppage of community testing, its leader’s brag of making “millions,” and the questionable privacy policy attached to its registry.

Since the city made the move, volunteers have accused CEO Andrei Doroshin of taking several doses with him off site after people with vaccination appointments were turned away that same day.

The clinic operated a couple days a week for less than a month, having opened on Jan. 8 with fanfare from the Philly Health Department and some elected officials. A city press release encouraged all Philadelphians to sign up with Philly Fighting COVID online. (The new recommendation is to re-register at the city’s own site.)

Before this week, members of City Council were relatively silent on the vaccine rollout. Some said they asked for details but were unable to get questions answered.

Now that the topic is out in the open thanks to local reporting — and is even making national news — city lawmakers and officials across the state are not holding back. Many of them are lambasting the start-up for its sketchy behavior. Others are leading investigations into the company, and asking for tips from the public to help out.

Here’s a rundown of what elected representatives are saying.

Mayor Kenney: If you got your first dose from PFC, we’ll make sure you get your second dose

Kenney has repeatedly blamed the lack of federal leadership for the slow vaccine rollout. He hit up Twitter on Tuesday to make excuses remind everyone that the city’s only getting 20k doses per week and ask for patience.

Everyone who got their first dose from PFC will hear from the city on how to access their second, he added, and said everyone else should sign up for the city’s registry.

Councilmember Cindy Bass: Let’s have a public hearing

The District 8 councilmember’s office drafted a resolution to hold a public hearing in City Council to investigate the city’s vaccine process and PFC’s “contract.” (Note: the Health Department has said that while PFC had a contract to do testing, there was no contract for vaccination and no money changed hands there — just doses of the vaccine.)

Bass plans to introduce the resolution alongside eight cosponsors during Council’s’ Thursday session. “It is just very disturbing, very troubling, and we need answers,” she told the Inquirer.

Council President Darrell Clarke: PFC used our seal without permission

Clark’s office didn’t say much right after PFC’s dubious behavior was revealed. But last week, spokesperson Joe Grace confirmed the company used City Council’s seal on its website without permission from the legislative body.

“We’ve reached out to the organization’s representatives, asking them to remove the Council seal,” Grace told WHYY last week. “Council has no role in this organization.”

Councilmember Cherelle Parker: Let’s give the remaining doses to the Black Doctors Consortium

Parker, elected to serve Northwest Philly’s district 9, called this whole thing a “travesty.” She suggested vaccine doses would be put to better use under the control of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.

Councilmember Isaiah Thomas: My bill would help with issues like this

Thomas, an at-large legislator, called the PFC ordeal “horrible,” and said that a bill he pushed through Council in November would help with situations like this. His bill essentially requires the city contract more local businesses, and that those shops meet higher reporting standards.

(Thing is, though, the bill… clearly didn’t help the city avoid the PFC contract.)

Councilmember Kendra Brooks: I support the public hearing

Brooks said on Wednesday that she supports Bass’ idea to hold public hearings on the city’s vaccination process and PFC’s contract.

“What is clear is that we should not be turning to one-off startups, volunteer operations, or public-private partnerships to do the work of municipal governments,” the at-large councilmember said.

Councilmember Allan Domb: If you registered with PFC, switch to the city’s registry

Domb didn’t take much of a stance following the ousting of PFC. He just reminded Philadelphians who were counting on the company to sign up instead for the city’s vaccine registry.

Councilmember Bobby Henon: PFC did a good job

Seemingly alone in his take on this, the District 6 councilmember told the Inquirer he’s been impressed with the company.

“I believe that Philly Fighting COVID did a good job for the Health Department vaccinating Philadelphians,” Henon told the Inquirer on Tuesday. “It’s kind of odd that they are in this position when they were doing such a good job, and I hope it gets worked out.”

Pa. Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta: PFC ‘betrayed public trust’

North Philly state representative Kenyatta asked City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart to look into the vaccination flub.

“If these reports are true, that vials of the vaccine are being taken home by an official of this entity, then that is cause for great alarm,” Kenyatta said in a statement. “I am calling for an immediate and independent investigation.”

Pa. Sen. Nikil Saval: This is ‘disaster capitalism’

Saval, just sworn in at the beginning of this month, decried PFC and said his office is committed to equitable vaccine distribution.

Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro: PFC’s behavior is ‘unethical’

Shapiro’s stance? Acting like a nonprofit when you’re actually a for-profit is wrong. Since his office oversees charities in Pennsylvania, he said he’s in touch with city officials about the allegations against PFC.

District Attorney Larry Krasner: Contact me if you have dirt on PFC

Have any info on PFC? Let Krasner know. He said on Twitter that his office is looking for information on possible crimes committed by the company.