Philly’s COVID recovery

What to know about Philly’s FEMA vaccination site at the Convention Center

It’ll be open every day and stick around at least six weeks, officials say.

modernavaccinevial
AP Photo

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A new clinic supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency has the potential to double the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Philadelphia each day.

Located at the Pa. Convention Center, the site is being run as a partnership between the city and the federal government. It’s part of a nearly $4 billion plan for FEMA to support more than 400 community vaccination centers across the country.

Philly’s clinic will get staffing and supplies from the feds, including more than 200 members of the military and extra vaccine doses.

Dubbed the Center City Vaccination Center, the site is meant to serve Philadelphia residents. It’s expected to launch Wednesday, and remain open for at least six weeks, until mid-April.

Once it’s up and running, the target is for the CCVC to provide around 6,000 doses daily, according to Philly Health Commissioner Tom Farley. That’s about equal to the average daily throughput of all other city providers combined.

The center will be open seven days a week and operate 12 hours a day, offering a much larger window than other standing sites in Philadelphia.

You can’t just show up, however. Like most other clinics, service will be by appointment only, with invites sent to eligible folks who’ve signed up at the city’s main vaccine interest registry. When you arrive, you’ll have to show ID that matches the name on the scheduled visit in order to get your shot.

Here’s a rundown of details you might want to know, all according to releases from FEMA and the city Health Department’s regular coronavirus briefings.

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What are the operating hours?

8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week

Who’s in charge of the site?

Official partners in the Center City Vaccination Center include:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Philadelphia Department of Public Health
  • Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM)

Where is the staff coming from?

Clinical staff will include people from the city and federal partners, including uniformed members of the military.

The U.S. Marine Corps is sending a complement of 222 people, and people who’ve signed up as volunteers with the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps are also being tapped to help.

How do I get an appointment?

You’ll need an invitation in order to schedule an appointment. The Philly Health Department is in charge of inviting people, which they are doing by email and telephone. Some invites have already gone out to eligible city residents, according to Health Commissioner Farley.

Get on the list by signing up at phila.gov/vaccineinterest or calling 311.

Who’s eligible?

Anyone eligible to receive the COVID vaccine in Philadelphia is eligible to get vaccinated at the CCVC. Right now that’s people in Phase 1A or Phase 1B, which includes:

  • Health care workers and home health aides
  • Residents and staff in long-term care facilities and other congregate settings
  • Certain high-risk essential workers (including first responders, public transit, teachers, food service)
  • People with certain high-risk medical conditions (including pregnancy, obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease)
  • Anyone over the age of 75

Depending on how many people want to get vaccinated, the city could finish these groups by the end of April, Health Commissioner Farley estimated.

Next up is Phase 1C, which includes lower-risk essential workers in fields like sanitation, construction, maintenance and utilities. That could be complete by the end of May, Farley said, at which point anyone over the age of 16 will become eligible.

Here is Philly’s detailed priority schedule, and an explanation of why it’s slightly different from the rest of Pa.

Some federal workers may also be vaccinated at the CCVC.

What if I already signed up and haven’t gotten an invite?

Over 200,000 people are in the city’s registry, per Farley. Invites are being sent to people deemed eligible according to answers submitted when you signed up.

It’s unclear exactly how the Health Department is selecting who gets invited. People who live in ZIP codes that currently have the lowest rates of vaccination are being prioritized, Farley said, in order to even things out across Philly neighborhoods.

What if people who aren’t eligible sign up?

Their appointment will be canceled.

People who receive invitations via email aren’t supposed to forward the signup link to friends or family, but that’s been happening a lot across the nation — and now it has become a problem in Philadelphia. “We’ve been forced to commit resources to cancel appointments for people who have signed up … even though they are ineligible,” said city Health Department spokesperson James Garrow.

There’s currently nothing other than conscience to keep anyone with the link from signing up. However, there’s also nothing on the signup form that indicates whether you’re eligible or not.

The Health Department is working on what it calls a “technological fix,” which could be active as soon as this week, according to Garrow.

What ID do I need to bring?

You’ll need to bring identification to your scheduled appointment.

It can be any ID that shows your name and your Philadelphia address. Think driver’s license, passport, school ID, credit card, paycheck or utility bill.

Should undocumented people worry?

Reportedly no. Although the site is being run by the federal government, FEMA has promised immigration sweeps will not take place there.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics,” the agency said in a release.

Which vaccines will be administered?

Clinicians at the Convention Center site will be administering the Pfizer vaccine, which requires special handling and ultracold storage.

What about second doses?

People who get the Pfizer vaccine at the FEMA site will be scheduled for their follow-up shot during their first appointments. These booster inoculations will take place at the same location, the Health Department confirmed.

Will this slow down vaccination at other Philly sites?

it shouldn’t, because the FEMA site is coming with its own separate shipments of vaccine.

So far, the CDC has been distributing vaccine across the country on a per capita basis, so the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is receiving doses in proportion to the city’s population. Close to half those doses have so far gone to people who live in the suburbs. That’s expected to shift as community sites ramp up and the categories of who’s eligible changes.

However, the doses being administered at the Convention Center will come from a different pool and won’t count against the per capita allocation.

How do I get to the Pa. Convention Center? Is there parking?

This location was selected for the FEMA site because it’s so central and close to many transportation options.

SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line and Broad Street Line subways both have stops a couple blocks away. Several SEPTA bus routes also pass close by. The Greyhound Bus station is a three-block-walk.

There are also many parking garages nearby, as the site is inside the Convention Center — which is used to hosting many more visitors from out of town than it gets these days. Here’s a list; none are free, however. There is some on-street free parking within a few blocks of the site, according to the SpotAngels finder app.

Will FEMA sites open in other parts of Pennsylvania?

It’s possible.

Philly was selected in part because of its score on the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, a measure that takes into account various info from the census regarding housing, transportation, income level, race and ethnicity, among other data.

Input from local and regional officials also factored into the decision to use the Convention Center for Pa.’s first FEMA site, according to the agency, which noted that the commonwealth could eventually get more: “FEMA is working with Pennsylvania officials to assess other potential federally supported vaccination sites across the state.”

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s COVID recovery stories.

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