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January 26, 2021

City boots Philly Fighting COVID from vaccine rollout, leaving some people's second shots in flux

Health officials cited the organization's switch to for-profit status and its data collection practices

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has severed ties with Philly Fighting COVID, an organization that has been providing coronavirus vaccines and testing. 

The decision to dissolve the partnership Monday was made because the organization switched from nonprofit to for-profit status without telling city health officials, according to WHYY. But it leaves many people who are awaiting their second vaccine doses in a state of flux. 

Philly Fighting COVID also had updated its data privacy policy to allow the organization to sell information collected through its vaccine pre-registration website. The group also had cut back on promised community testing in favor of switching to vaccinations.

MORE: Vaccine effort presses forward after 'disturbing' break from Philly Fighting COVID

City health officials called the organization's changes "extremely troubling."

Health officials said they are developing plans to move future COVID-19 vaccine allocations to other providers and schedule new clinics to ensure that people who were vaccinated through Philly Fighting COVID at the Pennsylvania Convention Center can get their second doses.

Health officials said they have the contact information of everyone who received their first doses through Philly Fighting COVID and will be in contact with them to set up appointments for their followup shots. 

"We completely understand that not only is this a difficult time, but this change can feel upsetting," the city wrote in a statement on Twitter. "We are working extremely hard to ensure that everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be.

"We thank you for patience, understanding, and for doing your part to help keep us all safe!"

"Taking advantage of people and their privacy under the guise of serving as a nonprofit is not only unethical -- it can also be against Pennsylvania law," Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement.

"We have been in touch with the City to obtain any information they can provide about these allegations," he continued. "Our office oversees charitable organizations in the Commonwealth and we will ensure they are acting in good faith with the communities they serve."

The city partnered with Philly Fighting COVID earlier this month to establish a massive coronavirus vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and set up a website where residents could pre-register to receive a vaccine. 

Residents' birth dates, professions, zip codes and household sizes were among the information that Philly Fighting COVID collected through its website during pre-registration.

The city has since launched its own registration site. Officials strongly recommend anyone who wants to receive a COVID-19 vaccine register on the city's portal website. The city will contact people to set up appointments as they become eligible and more vaccine doses are available.

The convention center clinic was expected to remain open as vaccine eligibility expanded to other groups. Vaccinations were to be offered at no cost.

Along with Philly Fighting COVID, city health officials also have been working with the Black Doctor's COVID-19 Consortium and Acme, which have set up their own vaccine pre-registration sites.

Philadelphia is currently in Phase 1B of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, which includes select groups of essential workers, seniors over age 75 and people with certain underlying health conditions. Health care workers, as well as long-term care facility residents and staff, were covered under Phase 1A. 

The city is expected to receive a combined total of about 20,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines per week, along with the appropriate second doses, through the end of February.

COVID-19 vaccine production is expected to ramp up significantly in the coming weeks and months.

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