Tarik Khan’s late-night rush to vaccinate Philadelphia’s homebound seniors was ‘not sustainable.’ Thankfully, others are stepping up.
“This really is a Philly effort. In Philly we hustle. … This is the City of Brotherly Love where we look after our less fortunate,” Khan said.
It’s been a busy couple weeks for Tarik Khan, a Philadelphia family nurse-practitioner who delivers vaccine doses that would otherwise expire to people unable to leave their homes.
Since The Philadelphia Inquirer chronicled his late rush around the city, Khan keeps hearing from residents in need of a vaccine and has reached more than 50 new people with doses. He has also appeared on local TV stations, MSNBC, and GMA3: What You Need To Know, to raise awareness around the need to vaccinate vulnerable populations like people with disabilities, those who are homebound, and caregivers.
City Councilmember Bobby Henon introduced a resolution to Council last week recognizing Khan’s efforts. And Khan presented this work, alongside Anna Perng, another advocate who coordinates these homebound vaccinations, at an April 21 virtual forum on improving vaccine access, hosted by the White House.
» READ MORE: Inquirer journalists shadowed Khan earlier this month as he carried 10 doses that would expire within 6 hours. Click here to find out if he beat the clock.
The increased publicity has added credibility and name recognition to their effort, Khan and Perng said. So far, Khan has vaccinated more than 150 people with leftover doses.
Now, when Khan calls someone on his list and explains who he is, they are more likely to recognize him and let him into their home. GMA3 interviewed Khan during its Tuesday show and aired videos Khan took of a recent night delivering eight vaccine doses to people around the city.
“I was so ecstatic because mom and I saw you on TV and I was like amazed. I’m like ‘Oh we’re going to have a celebrity coming over!’ ” one resident said in the video, while wearing an Eagles sweatshirt. “I’m so glad it was you.”
Khan, 42, grew up in Bustleton, and delivers these doses in his own time, after a full day at the Family Practice and Counseling Network, where he works either at a vaccination clinic or at the Abbottsford-Falls office seeing patients. He calls these extra vaccines “angel” doses.
“This really is a Philly effort. In Philly we hustle. … This is the City of Brotherly Love where we look after our less fortunate,” Khan said Tuesday on GMA3. “I wasn’t going to let those doses that we had go to waste.”
The city and other organizations have been increasing their efforts for mobile coronavirus vaccine clinics to reach the city’s estimated 7,400 homebound residents. But Perng, the founder of the COVID-19 Health Equity Coalition, a network of advocates and civic and religious leaders, said she continues to hear from people in need of a vaccine who were unable to find help.
“It’s frustrating to me to see news reports of vaccine clinics being empty,” Perng said. “There are dozens of people on our request form who are begging for vaccines.”
Courtney Voss, Councilmember Henon’s chief of staff, said their office has become a “makeshift call center” to support Khan’s efforts. Residents from across the city call Henon’s office, Voss said, and staff record contact information before connecting them with Khan to be vaccinated. Voss said they have taken more than 100 of these calls so far.
The council member’s office has also identified other pharmacists and providers who are interested in working with Khan to vaccinate the people who are homebound and on his list. Voss said they are working out logistics now and hope to provide this service within the next week.
Khan has acknowledged his nightly hours-long rush, sometimes into the early hours of the morning, is not sustainable. That’s why FPCN, a network of federally qualified community health centers where Khan works, is creating a more formal unit dedicated to providing health care at home.
Rebecca Bixby, the network’s executive clinician and primary care director, said they recently received federal funding from the Biden administration’s stimulus package that can partly go toward establishing a mobile health unit.
This will be used to purchase at least one vehicle and hire six people for a mobile health team. Bixby hopes it is running by July 1. In the meantime, she said, staff are stepping up to help vaccinate homebound residents and hopefully lessen the load for Khan.
Nurse-practitioners on staff are now able to schedule in-home visits for existing patients, or anyone who needs a vaccine, during their regular work hours. These vaccine requests are not limited to “leftover” doses. This new process began last week, and Bixby hopes it continues.
“To make it more sustainable we need to expand it beyond Tarik,” Bixby said. They continue to get requests for home vaccinations and are trying to group them by zip code, so nurse-practitioners like Khan are not rushing around every corner of the city on a given night. “We’re fortunate to have a staff that is willing to do this.”
Readers also reached out to help, offering to drive Khan around, pay for his gas, and buy a cell-phone holder for his car. But Khan has turned down these offerings. Instead, Khan and Perng request that residents fill out this form or email firstname.lastname@example.org with the full address and contact information of anyone who cannot leave their home and needs a vaccine.
GMA3 surprised Khan with a gift on Tuesday, announcing they were giving him and a guest a two-night stay at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, along with a spa package.
That vacation, Khan said, will have to come after the vaccine rollout is done.