Public could get vaccines in June, Farley says

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley speaks to reporters at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, near a coronavirus vaccine clinic.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Philadelphia’s health commissioner on Tuesday estimated that members of the general public could begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in June, with everyone who wants a shot getting it by the end of July.

It’s the first time city officials have spelled out a vaccine timeline, though Health Commissioner Thomas Farley cautioned that some unknown factors remain that could disrupt the process.

Farley said his prediction is based on the the recent announcement from the Biden administration that the federal government had secured an agreement for 200 million additional doses, which would give the nation enough vaccine supply to inoculate every adult by mid-summer.

If that’s the case, he said, Philadelphia should wrap up Phase 1B, which includes certain critical infrastructure workers, people with chronic conditions and residents 75 and older, near the end of April.

People prioritized in Phase 1C, other essential workers and those between the ages of 65 and 74, would be inoculated in May, and Phase 2 — anyone not already vaccinated — is expected to begin in June, Farley said.

Larger shipments of the two vaccines approved for use in the United States, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are starting to arrive in Philadelphia, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could arrive next month if it receives federal authorization in the coming weeks.

Just over 26,000 first doses are being sent to Philadelphia this week, though delivery could be delayed due to bad weather and flight cancellations around the country, officials said.

An additional 4,900 Moderna doses are being sent directly to 77 Rite Aid stores and three Shoprites in the city as part of a federal pharmacy program.

Vaccines are also available at nearly a dozen Walgreens locations and will be arriving at select Sunray Drug pharmacies, ACME Markets, Walmarts and independent pharmacies next week, officials said.

Farley said residents 75 and older are eligible to set up an appointment at the pharmacies.

Mayor Jim Kenney said his administration has not ruled out using Lincoln Financial Field as a mass vaccination location following a highly-publicized spat last week with a group of City Council members over the stadium.

A coalition led by Councilman Allan Domb has pointed to other large cities that are already using their stadiums as inoculation sites.

Domb indicated Monday that he will introduce a resolution in Council Thursday if Kenney doesn’t act on the issue.

“We’re not eliminating Lincoln Financial Field from some ultimate use in that regard,” Kenney said Tuesday. “It’s just not going to be the first one out of the box.”

Domb said he and other officials were briefed last week about talks with the Federal Emergency Management Agency about a mega-site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

City leaders have been in ongoing talks with federal officials, Farley said.

“The Convention Center is an excellent site for vaccination, so I imagine we will use it in the future,” he told reporters. “We don’t have specific plans for that yet.”

A series of health department-run mass vaccine clinics will begin next week.

Officials have said doses will be distributed at the Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School in Harrowgate; the Martin Luther King Older Adult Center in North Philadelphia; and the University of the Sciences in West Philadelphia.

Residents who registered using the city’s vaccine interest form at www.phila.gov/vaccineinterest will be contacted to schedule appointments at the sites. People without internet access can now call 311 to sign up.

The city began reaching out to people who registered through the database last week.

So far, nearly 152,000 Philadelphians have received at least one dose of vaccine.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continue to drop. Last week, the city averaged 242 infections a day with a 3.8% positive test rate, both down from the prior week’s 323 cases and 5.3%.

“These numbers overall are showing a significant decrease in the past few weeks,” Farley said. “It’s really good to see this continued downward trend.”

About 700 people in the city have tested positive since Friday, and seven have died of virus-related illness, officials reported. Philadelphia’s pandemic death toll stands at 3,001.

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