FEMA’s mass vaccination site at Pennsylvania Convention Center prepares to open
"It’s an impressive operation that will go a long way to helping us deliver the vaccine to Philadelphians who actually really need it," Mayor Jim Kenney said.
Philadelphia officials and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Tuesday toured the city’s first federally run mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, a clinic aiming to inoculate up to 6,000 residents per day.
The site, which will officially open Wednesday and is run in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will be open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through at least April 30, officials said.
”It’s an impressive operation that will go a long way to helping us deliver the vaccine to Philadelphians who actually really need it,” Mayor Jim Kenney said, noting that the additional federal vaccine supply and staff — military personnel from across the county — is “taking the weight off of us right now.”
The FEMA site, Kenney said, “gives us the ability to actually use our own vaccine to get into neighborhoods and to set up sites in the community.”
The Convention Center — which this winter previously hosted the now-disavowed city partner Philly Fighting COVID, as well as a city-run second-dose clinic — was chosen because of its central location, Kenney said, with access to SEPTA regional and subway lines, as well as bus and trolley routes. Adults age 65 and older can ride free at all times, he said. The Philadelphia Parking Authority will also offer reduced fare and free parking lots near the Convention Center for those being vaccinated, Kenney said.
Earlier this week, before opening to the general public, the site provided hundreds of doses to federal and SEPTA employees. Starting March 3, vaccinations will be available by appointment made online or through calling 311, to people eligible in the city’s 1A and 1B categories, however the city is prioritizing those in 1B who are 75 and older and adults with high-risk conditions.
But already before the site opened to the masses, the city has already contended with a score of illegitimate vaccine appointments after an online sign-up link intended only for essential workers spread to others who were able to use the link to register.
The city’s IT provider is close to providing a solution to prevent those ineligible from using the link, Kenney said, but in the meantime, those with improper access should “examine your conscience and not try to jump the line.”
”Have some self respect and understand the people you’re jumping the line on are old and sick and may die as a result,” he said.
The clinic is one of more than 500 federally supported community vaccination sites throughout the country, Mayorkas said, part of a mandate from President Joe Biden.
Federal authorities will not conduct immigration enforcement or checks at or near the clinics, Mayorkas said.
”Your socioeconomic status, your race, your ethnicity or access to transportation, or your immigration status should not impact whether you are able to receive a vaccine to those who lack the status in this country,” he said.
He called the clinic “a shining example of partnership” between local and federal groups and one “of extraordinary importance in the service of equity in the service of public health.”
The site, part of a 10-city pilot program to expand and increase access to vaccines, is set to remain open through April 30, said MaryAnn Tierney, acting FEMA deputy administrator. However, she said, the agency will later decide whether the program will continue on in some locations, or potentially expand.