Philadelphia launched a website Thursday for residents to express interest in receiving a coronavirus vaccine and eventually schedule an appointment.
Earlier this week, officials announced the city was moving to Phase 1B of the vaccine roll-out, opening the door for people age 75 and older and those with certain medical conditions to receive the injection.
On the site — www.phila.gov/vaccineinterest — residents are directed to fill out a short form in English or Spanish, but they cannot set up an appointment.
The Philadelphia Department of Health said people who sign up will be contacted about scheduling a time. It could take “weeks or months” to hear back, due to the limited vaccine supply, health officials said.
“While we cannot make more doses of vaccine appear, with this sign-up, we can at least assure interested Philadelphians that they will be contacted when their opportunity to get vaccinated comes up,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in a statement.
Farley said Tuesday that the city anticipates receiving about 20,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine on a weekly basis through the end of February.
In addition to people 75 and older, those with cancer, chronic kidney disease and people who have undergone an organ transplant will be the first priority group of Phase 1B.
At the same time, high-priority essential workers, including police officers, firefighters, staff at congregate settings, correctional officers and transit workers will be getting inoculated.
Others in 1B, such as teachers, food service workers, retail employees and people with COPD, obesity and sickle cell disease, will be vaccinated at a later date.
The health department said it will be working with groups that have set up similar websites, including Philly Fighting COVID and the Black Doctor’s COVID-19 Consortium, to make sure information submitted to those organizations is included in the city’s database.
Procedures are different elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Anyone over the age of 64 and those with underlying medical conditions putting them at high risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms are currently eligible for a vaccine.
Nearly 80,000 people in Philadelphia have received their first shot, and about 543,000 doses have been administered in other parts of the state.
On Friday, the city will be hosting an invitation-only vaccination clinic for school nurses at Abraham Lincoln High School in Northeast Philadelphia.
School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite said Thursday that his team will unveil a plan next week for the phased-in return of in-person classes.
He has said children Pre-K-to-2nd grade will come back first, followed by those with special needs and career and technical education students. The reopening of school buildings is not contingent on teachers and other staff being vaccinated, Hite said last week.
There seems to be growing momentum among city leaders for the return of face-to-face education.
During an hours-long City Council hearing Thursday, several members said students would be safer in classrooms, citing recent shootings involving teenagers and young children.
“There are some children that are only safe in school buildings,” Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez said during Thursday’s virtual meeting. “There are some children who will only eat in school buildings, and there’s kids who will only learn in school buildings.”
Mayor Jim Kenney, in a tweet about the accidental fatal shooting of a 9-year-old girl Wednesday, said, “This affirms what I know in my heart to be true — our kids are safer when they’re in school.”
Public school students in the city have been 100% virtual for 10 months. District leaders planned to bring back the youngest children in November, but the move was scrapped amid growing COVID-19 case counts.
Philadelphia reported 487 new infections, 49 probable cases and 20 additional virus-related fatalities Thursday, raising the city’s pandemic death toll to 2,758.
Statewide, there were 5,664 positive tests and 260 deaths on Thursday.