More groups eligible for vaccine in Philly

PHOTO: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

City officials on Friday opened up coronavirus vaccine eligibility to several new groups, including a one that may be among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

People with intellectual disabilities are more likely to catch the virus than any other subsection of the population and mortality rates for the group are second only to the elderly, according to a recent Jefferson University study.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley cited the report in explaining why those with intellectual disabilities are being added to Phase 1B of the city’s vaccine roll-out.

The study, which analyzed the records of nearly 65 million patients, found that 8.2% of COVID-19 patients with intellectual disabilities died following their positive test, compared with 3.8% of those without disabilities.

They were also more than three times as likely to contract the virus, and more than twice as likely to require a stay in the intensive care unit, the report found.

In addition to residents with intellectual disabilities, Philadelphia’s vaccine committee added staff at centers that serve seniors and people with disabilities, clergy and people who use oral corticosteroids or other medications that weaken their immune systems to 1B.

Farley said the city is set to move into Phase 1C, which includes certain essential workers, such as mail carriers, sanitation workers and taxi drivers, sometime in April, with the general population to become eligible on May 1.

Monday is the final day when people will be able to walk up for inoculations at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia’s largest vaccination site.

Last week, officials announced that residents of 22 under-vaccinated zip codes could come to the Center City location without an appointment. It was an attempt to close a racial gap in inoculations.

“Early data says that this is working,” Farley told reporters Friday.

On Thursday, 22% of those vaccinated at the Convention Center were Black and 21% were Hispanic. Prior to the walk-up option, 13% of the people vaccinated there were Black and 11% were Hispanic.

People who live in the following zip codes can go to the Convention Center without an appointment between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday: 19104, 19131, 19139, 19142, 19143, 19151, 19153, 19122, 19132, 19133, 19134, 19140, 19116, 19120, 19124, 19135, 19136, 19138, 19141, 19144, 19149 and 19152.

The site, which is being operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will be moving on to giving out second doses later this week.

Farley said officials are “seriously considering” opening a second federally-backed site at Esperanza’s campus in Hunting Park, confirming an earlier WHYY report.

The city will be opening two smaller community-based clinics this week, at Cannstatter Volksfest Verein in Northeast Philadelphia and at the Salvation Army’s location at 5501 Market Street in West Philadelphia.

Federal officials have told Philadelphia leaders that the city’s vaccine allotment will remain level for the next three weeks, Farley said. Shipments had been increasing, reaching about 41,000 last week, with an additional 42,000 going to the Convention Center site.

As of Friday, 415,676 people had received at least one dose in Philadelphia, including about 134,000 people who live outside the city.

Nearly 18% of city residents have been vaccinated, and 41% of those 75 and older and 40% of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have been inoculated, according to health department data.

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