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March 03, 2021

FEMA opens vaccination site in Philly: How to make an appointment for a COVID-19 shot

The massive clinic, located at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, can inoculate 6,000 people each day

Prevention COVID-19
FEMA vaccine clinic Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

FEMA's new COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Pennsylvania Convention Center will expedite the pace of inoculations in Philadelphia.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center that has the capacity to inoculate up to 6,000 people per day. 

The Center City Vaccination Center, the first federal clinic in Philadelphia, draws its vaccines from a federal supply that is separate from the city's allotment. Recipients will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which requires a second dose three weeks later. 

The site is open to people who meet the city's eligibility criteria. The city is currently vaccinating people in groups 1A and 1B. The latter includes teachers, public transit worker, first responders, seniors 75 and older and people with high-risk medical conditions. 

The federal clinic enables the city's Department of Public Health to use its own allotment to operate pop-up vaccination sites in neighborhoods.

"I cannot overstate how appreciative we are of the federal government for selecting Philadelphia to host one of FEMA's mass vaccination clinics," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "This impressive operation will go a long way in helping us deliver the vaccine to Philadelphians who need it."

The site is being run in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the city. 

Here's what residents can expect when they head to the vaccination site: 

How do I make a vaccine appointment?

Philadelphia residents must first fill out the city's vaccine interest form. Residents can call 311 for help completing the form, if needed. 

The city will notify residents when they become eligible for a vaccine and provide instructions for making an appointment. There are no walk-up appointments at the FEMA site. 

Residents will not be able to get the vaccine before their priority groups become eligible. FEMA already has canceled some appointments made by people who are not yet eligible. The Department of Public Health said it is working on a solution to prevent that from happening again. 

What do I need to bring with me?

Vaccine recipients must bring a form of ID or a piece of mail with a Philadelphia address as proof of identity and residency. 

Each vaccine recipient is allowed to bring one caregiver or support staffer, if needed. There will be staff members available to help anyone who requires translation services or mobility assistance at the facility. 

People cannot bring in bikes, weapons or non-service animals, among other prohibited items. 

What should I expect at the appointment?

Though appointments are scheduled, people may have to wait in line before entering the site. 

Once people enter the site, they will be asked a series of health screening questions and begin moving through several areas. 

They will then schedule an appointment for a second dose, if necessary. The Center City Vaccination Center is currently utilizing the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses, but the recently authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires a single shot. 

People next will move to the vaccination section of the facility to receive their shots. 

What should I expect after the shot?

After receiving the shot, people must sit in an observation area for 15 minutes to ensure they do not have an adverse reaction. People with certain health conditions, like severe allergies, must wait 30 minutes before departing.

People will be handed a CDC-issued vaccination card to bring with them when they get their second doses. Officials recommend people keep the card in a safe place, take a picture of it on their phones and email it to themselves to ensure they don't lose the information.

Recipients also will be handed a fact sheet on the vaccine they received. It explains the side effects associated with the shot and provides instructions for responding to them. 

What are the side effects?

Recipients may experience some minor side effects that signal their immune systems are working. These include a sore arm, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, chills and a fever. 

Pfizer and Moderna say their vaccines cause side effects in about 10-15% of people who get vaccinated. 

In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction is possible. Symptoms typically occur within a few minutes to one hour of receiving the vaccine. They include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, a fast heartbeat, a rash, dizziness and weakness. 

How do I get there?

The entrance to the Center City Vaccination Center is located at the northeast corner of 12th and Arch streets. It is accessible via SEPTA and CCT services, rideshare companies, taxis and personal vehicles. 

City officials instruct residents driving to the site to use the following address on GPS apps: 100 N. 12th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.

Parking facilities are available, as well as pick-up and drop-off zones located near the entrance and exit points. Certain lots are offering discounted rates for two-hour parking to people who show their vaccination cards, including the Autopark at the Fashion District and the Parkway Broad and Race Garage.

The center is one block from SEPTA's Jefferson Station, which is serviced by 11 Regional Rail lines, the Market-Frankford Line and bus routes 17, 23, 33, 38, 44, 47, 47M, 48, 61 and 62.

SEPTA is offering free parking at the Fern Rock Transportation Center, Fox Chase Station and Torresdale Station. 

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the central location of the vaccine site makes it accessible to people of all backgrounds.

After vaccination, people exit on the northwest corner of 11th and Arch Streets. 

When is the vaccination center open?

The Center City Vaccination Center will operate seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until April 30, 2021.

Residents can sign up for notifications and updates about the center by texting COVIDPHL to 888-777.

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