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February 19, 2021

FEMA opening Philly COVID-19 vaccination site at Convention Center

The federal clinic will provide vaccine supplies on top of the city's regular allocation

Prevention Vaccines
FEMA Philly Vaccination Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

FEMA's COVID-19 vaccination site in Philadelphia could inoculate several thousand people every day when it reaches full capacity.

A mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic will open in Center City in early March as part of a new city partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

The vaccination site will be run at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. FEMA will provide staffing, operations, logistics and federal vaccine allocations. The vaccine supply will not come from Philadelphia's existing allocation.

At maximum operating capacity, the site could administer several thousand doses per day.

Officials said the clinic could open at the Convention Center as soon as March 3. An exact opening date and details on the registration process will be released later. 

"I am excited to see the federal government continue to step up to the plate and support us to help protect every Philadelphian," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "Every city in the country, including Philadelphia, is currently struggling with not having enough COVID vaccine to meet the demand of their residents, so this center will make a huge difference."

FEMA also is reviewing the possibility of adding additional clinics elsewhere in Pennsylvania, where the vaccination effort has lagged amid limited supply and allocation issues.

To open the Convention Center Clinic, FEMA will partner 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. 

Philadelphia's vaccine rollout was hampered earlier this year by an ill-fated partnership with Philly Fighting COVID, which previously ran a vaccine clinic at the Convention Center. 

With expanding federal support and a growing vaccine supply, the city sharpened its timeline for vaccine distribution this week, setting a tentative goal to make COVID-19 vaccines broadly available beginning some time in June.

The addition of a high-volume, federal clinic will help the city reach priority populations more quickly and efficiently, city officials said. 

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the Convention Center's central location, accessible via public transit, will ensure people off all backgrounds have equitable access. 

The city has vaccinated 161,000 people with first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and 79,000 people with second doses of the vaccine, Farley said. 

"As we are increasing the number of people we're vaccinating, our demographics of the people getting the vaccine are gradually becoming more diverse," Farley said.

The percentage of Black residents among the people who have been vaccinated is now 20%. That's up from 8% when the city first started tracking the statistic last month.

"Our three goals for distributing vaccine have always been: do it fast, do it so it saves the most lives, and do it equitably," Farley said.

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