Philly’s COVID recovery

At least one quarter of all Philly residents have gotten a vaccine shot

The pace of vaccination has picked up, but a third of doses are delivered at the Convention Center FEMA site — which is slated to close at the end of April.

Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Tom Farley tour the city's Convention Center clinic handing second doses of COVID-19 vaccine for patients given the first through PFC

Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Tom Farley tour the city's Convention Center clinic handing second doses of COVID-19 vaccine for patients given the first through PFC

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

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More than 25% of all Philadelphia residents have now received at least one dose of their coronavirus vaccine, according to city data.

This milestone comes after the city set a new weekly record for administering vaccine shots at the end of March — 122,000 doses — following a dip in vaccinations the week prior. The city appears on track to keep or grow that pace in the near future, but uncertainty lingers over where vaccine distribution will stand in a month.

The issue: Over a third of the doses being delivered in Philly are coming from the FEMA operation at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Since the first week in March, the FEMA site has been inoculating up to 6,000 people per day, more than any other vaccine provider in the city. But it’s slated to close at the end of April.

By that time, all adults in Philadelphia will be eligible for the vaccine. The city health department announced it will follow the state and federal guidelines to open eligibility to everyone on April 19, moving into Phase 2 of the city’s priority schedule. (Find a detailed list of who’s in which category here.)

Right now, the seven-day FEMA clinic is rounding out its last week of administering second doses of the Pfizer vaccine. It will then switch to administering the one-dose J&J vaccine for two weeks. That will conclude the federal government’s eight week commitment for the site.

The city has asked FEMA to keep the Convention Center site running. FEMA hasn’t given an answer.

“We are in discussions with the federal government now about whether or not that would be extended,” Farley said Tuesday. “We hope we’ll have a decision on that soon.”

If the site closes, it could set back Philly’s vaccine pace dramatically.

The number of pharmacies and community vaccine providers in the city has been growing. There are now nearly 250 across Philadelphia, according to Farley, up from 200 just two weeks ago and 100 or so in mid-February.  But no other provider comes close to the FEMA site.

Health officials said they hope to vaccinate at least 160,000 people per week by the end of April.

The city is receiving a regular supply of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, with about 40,000 first doses arriving weekly, while the J&J vaccine is coming in single shipments, with no indication when the next batch will be sent.

City data shows about 14.5% of the population is fully vaccinated, but federal data indicates the number is 16.7% — because the latter factors in residents who are getting vaccinated outside the county, Farley said.

A new FEMA-run site opens on Esperanza’s campus in North Philly this Friday. It will be a “Type II” site with the capacity of administering about 2,500 doses per day.

These shots will come out of the city’s weekly allocation, instead of being shipped directly from the federal government like at the Convention Center. It’s still undecided which type of vaccine will be used at the Esperanza site, according to the health commissioner.

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

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