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Biden wants to use NFL stadiums as vaccine sites, but Philly disagrees

Philadelphia health officials are not eager to begin using Lincoln Financial Field, and are instead pushing a plan to establish neighborhood-based vaccination sites.

Lincoln Financial Field.
Lincoln Financial Field.Read moreJose F. Moreno / File Photograph

President Joe Biden said Sunday that he’d like to work with the NFL to use stadiums as vaccination sites.

But Philadelphia health officials aren’t eager to begin using Lincoln Financial Field, and are instead pushing a plan to establish neighborhood-based vaccination sites.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley spoke out against the idea at a City Council hearing Friday, saying a stadium site may attract residents from surrounding counties and states and wouldn’t advance the city’s goals of focusing on racial equity and vulnerable residents in vaccine distribution.

”Who’s going to drive into there? Not just people who have cars in Philadelphia but people who have cars in Delaware and the state of Pennsylvania,” Farley told a Council committee. “So it’s going to maybe drain the vaccine away from populations that we’re supposed to be vaccinating. We are allocated vaccine based upon our resident population, not based upon the metropolitan area.”

» READ MORE: City Council grills top health official on Philly Fighting COVID collapse and vaccine racial equity

City officials have also said drive-thru sites aren’t ideal because many residents don’t own cars. City Councilmember Allan Domb pushed Farley to consider drive-thru vaccination sites, noting that 82% of Philadelphians do have cars, and that other cities have already started using stadium sites.

Seven NFL stadiums are already in use for vaccination. In Massachusetts, both the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play, are vaccination sites.

Farley didn’t rule out the possibility of a mass vaccination site at the South Philadelphia sports complex later. “There may be a role down the line,” he said.

» READ MORE: The city trusted a group of ‘college kids’ to lead its vaccine rollout. But Philly Fighting COVID was full of red flags from the start.

Farley said Philly Fighting COVID, which ran a vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center until the city ended the partnership last month, had proposed using the stadium complex. Farley said he heard about that plan late last year from his staff.

”They said that they believed the plan was an overreach, and they did not approve it,” Farley said.

The city is planning to open three sites later this month around Philadelphia. Each would be open two days a week, providing first-dose shots one day and second doses the other day, with each site vaccinating 500 people per day. Farley said hospitals, pharmacies, health clinics, and organizations such as the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium will also work to vaccinate residents.

The city is currently running a clinic at the convention center to give second doses to people who got their first doses from Philly Fighting COVID, but Health Department spokesperson James Garrow said last week that the convention center won’t necessarily continue as one of the city-run sites.

”It’s our goal to set up these clinics more in the community, but nothing’s been finalized,” he said.