As of this week, 70% of Philadelphia adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, city officials announced Monday. Just under 56% of Philadelphia adults have been fully vaccinated.
In a statement, Mayor Jim Kenney said he was pleased Philadelphia had reached the 70% mark several weeks before July 4 — the date that President Joe Biden had set as his goal for getting 70% of the country vaccinated with at least one dose.
“We will not be satisfied until all eligible Philadelphians get this lifesaving vaccine,” Kenney said, thanking the city health department and the other city agencies and “many partners who have helped us get to this point.”
“This milestone is also due in large part to the Philadelphians who care about taking care of themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Earlier this month, the city lagged behind surrounding counties in boosting vaccine rates. (Pennsylvania as a whole reached the 70% partially vaccinated mark almost a month ago, but distribution varies among counties, with several still reporting first-dose distribution rates under 50%.)
Lately, the city’s strategy has been shifting away from mass vaccine sites that were standing-room-only at the start of the vaccination campaign but have since been seriously undersubscribed.
To reach residents who are more comfortable with close-to-home clinics and familiar providers, the city has been scaling down in an effort to meet people where they are. Incentives, like free sports tickets, also have proven effective for some people.
At least 693,885 Philadelphians have been fully vaccinated, and at least 874,278 have received one dose. With the rise of new variants of the coronavirus, including the “delta variant” causing case spikes in the United Kingdom and Portugal, health experts have stressed the importance of getting a second dose to ensure adequate protection.
Racial disparities in vaccine distribution -- present since the vaccine rollout began early this year -- persist, with white residents representing the largest share of those getting inoculated, followed by Hispanic and then Black Philadelphians. From the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 has been especially severe among residents of color.
James Garrow, a health department spokesperson, said the racial gap in vaccine distribution is part of a nationwide problem that stretches far beyond the COVID vaccine. “The COVID vaccine is not the only area where African Americans and Latinos in Philadelphia have poorer outcomes,” he said. “That’s the state of what health-care delivery is in this country. We live in a society where communities of color are not valued as much by the establishment.”
He said that although white vaccination rates still are higher than those of other races, vaccine rates have been rising among people of color in Philadelphia and that the city believes community outreach campaigns, partnerships with community leaders in setting up clinics, and incentives programs have helped.
“While we’re not satisfied with the breakdown as it stands, we feel that we’ve been making good progress and will continue to work to get everyone in Philadelphia vaccinated,” he said.