Philadelphia health officials are rearranging plans for COVID-19 vaccinations after the city severed ties with a group of young volunteers put in charge of mass vaccination efforts that resulted in canceled appointments and allegations of selling patient information.
The health department called the changes “extremely troubling,” and has since stopped providing vaccines to Philly Fighting Covid. Philadelphia city council members are now pressing city officials for answers.
“The Health Department is currently developing plans to shift future vaccine allocations to other providers, and is scheduling new clinics to ensure that people who were vaccinated at PFC’s clinics at the Convention Center can get their second dose,” the emailed statement continues. “The Health Department will be in contact with each of those people to set up appointments.”
Those interested in vaccinations are encouraged to register online.
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Philly Fighting COVID — founded by 22-year-old graduate student Andrei Doroshin of Drexel University — initially set out to help the city by making face shields for health care workers with a 3-D printer. The group then pivoted to testing and soon after, vaccinations.
The group was put in charge of running Philadelphia’s first mass community vaccine clinic, which opened on Jan. 8, according to a release from city health officials.
Many seniors were allegedly turned away from appointments after a mix-up in the sign-up process, and other allegations assert Doroshin pocketed left-over vaccines, though he calls the claims “baseless,” per Philadelphia Magazine. The outlet noted no one on the group’s “executive team” had a medical degree, though several nurses and a doctor were on the group’s “operations team.”
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Doroshin recently issued a statement published to Philly Fighting COVID’s website apologizing for causing any confusion or harm.
“We are aware that some were taken aback when we pivoted from testing to vaccines and we sincerely apologize for any miscommunications. Our intention was never to cause confusion or harm,” the statement said.
Doroshin said the pivot from testing to administering vaccinations necessitated the change from nonprofit to for-profit.
“Vaccinating large groups of people takes resources, manpower, and ultimately financial help. That is why we also shifted gears to a for-profit company — so that we could expand our operations team and accelerate the vaccine distribution. We never hid our intentions with the city and were making the change for good reasons.”
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Philadelphia Magazine reported that a since-removed list of staff comprised of all leadership positions held by white volunteers.
Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, blasted the health department’s initial choice in choosing the group to head up vaccination efforts, especially as minority outreach continues to be a key issue in distribution efforts.
“If there was anybody poised and ready to do this, it was us,” Stanford told Philadelphia Magazine.