FEMA vaccination site at Pennsylvania Convention Center to open Wednesday amid appointment issues

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney was joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas Tuesday for a tour of a federally-supported vaccination site that's set to open at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Wednesday.

Secretary Mayorkas received a briefing on the COVID-19 vaccination process at the site that will be implemented and supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services, will provide staffing and logistics support to the Community Vaccination Center.

Officials say the goal of establishing a federally supported vaccination site in partnership with the city is to continue expanding the rate of vaccinations in Philadelphia in an efficient and equitable manner, with a focus on communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure or infection.

The FEMA site promises to markedly increase the number of available doses by adding its own allotment to what is already given to Philadelphia Health Department. At maximum operating capacity, officials believe the site can administer up to 6,000 doses per day.

The site will be prioritizing eligible Philadelphia residents from phases 1A and 1B that have signed up on the Philadelphia COVID-19 Vaccine Interest form. 

"The vaccine being used at the Center City Vaccination Center site is from a federal allotment, which allows our health department to continue standing up vaccination sites directly in neighborhoods with its own allotment," Mayor Kenney said Tuesday. 

Kenney added that the site will operate for 12 hours per day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p..m, seven days a week through April 30. The site will be largely staffed by uniformed military personnel. 

The Pennsylvania Convention Center hosted the Philly Fighting COVID clinic which was disbanded after suspected scandalous behavior by its founder Andrei Doroshin. The site sat vacant in the wake of the alleged misconduct before Philadelphia took over the mass vaccination clinic.

The FEMA site has already had some issues with scheduling appointments after officials say a private link online meant for essential workers to make appointments was shared with an unknown number of others who were able to make appointments.

City officials say they have rebooked many appointments.

A spokesperson for the city's health department released a statement on the appointment issues that read in part:

"The Health Department identified individuals that fell into defined categories such as essential workers, Septa employees and designated federal employees who serve in public-facing roles. Confidential links were sent to those individuals. Regrettably, the confidential links were shared inappropriately with individual(s) that were not on the approved list. We understand the desire for loved ones and friends to be vaccinated. However, those that share private appointment links inappropriately are stealing doses from those who are at the highest risk of exposure, hospitalization, and death. Anyone who has received a private appointment link should consider what their sharing of that link could do, and make sure they are okay with taking vaccine away from those who could die as a result of their action. The Health Department is currently going through all of the individuals who obtained appointments to confirm that only those individuals specifically identified by the Health Department have appointments."

Mayor Kenney further addressed so-called 'line jumpers' during Tuesday's tour of the Pennsylvania Convention Center site. 

"The first thing I would suggest is what the Sisters of Mercy taught me in grade school, is to examine your conscience and not try to jump the line. And have some self-respect and understand that people you are jumping the line on are old and sick and may die as a result of it," Kenney said. "Secondly, we are working with our IT provider to come up with a solution, I think we might be close to a solution, on not allowing that link to be sent to other people." 



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