Black doctors vaccine program eliminates registration requirement

The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium is changing how it administers vaccinations to make the process more equitable.

As of yesterday, March 1st, the organization stopped registering people for COVID-19 vaccinations online or over the phone and will offer only first come-first served vaccination clinics.

“We have a certain number of doses allocated to us per day and when we exceed or get to that number we will stop the line,” Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the consortium, said during the city’s virtual coronavirus news update last Friday.

The vaccination clinics are open to Philadelphia residents who meet Phase 1B criteria of being more than 75 years old or having certain health conditions.

Stanford said that 50,000 people registered to be vaccinated through the organization’s electronic system but the process was causing issues.

“Even though there were 50,000 people, many of them were not meeting the 1B criteria and many of them were not from communities that were hardest hit and we were worsening a health disparity, if you will, because those who didn’t have access to phones and computers were unable to register,” she said.

Stanford said the consortium will continue offering its vaccination clinics four to five times a week in some of city’s neighborhoods hardest hit by the coronavirus.

“We will continue to focus on the hardest hit ZIP codes unless something comes out from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health that now the vaccination rates are at the level where we would like them to be,” she said.

The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium has been vaccinating community residents since January in North Philadelphia and West Philadelphia where the prevalence of the disease has been the highest in positivity rates and the vaccination rates have been low.

To date, the consortium has vaccinated 15,871 people at 20 clinics. According to Stanford, 72.3% of those vaccinated at their clinics were Black; 3.9% Asian; 18.5% white; 2.5% Hispanic and 2.8% were unknown or not identified.

More than 4,000 residents braved the cold weather to be vaccinated during the consortium’s 24-hour vaccination clinic held last weekend at the Liacouras Center. The organization plans to host follow-up events the week of March 21, so those individuals can receive their second dose. Stanford said they are in talks with Temple University, the Office of Emergency Management, the Fire Department and the Philadelphia Police Department to streamline the process of mass vaccinations.

“I think there are lots of different methods to get to the same goal,” she said. “We’re trying to decrease transmission and that was a fairly effective way to do it, although there’s always room to do it better.”

If there is a need, Stanford said the consortium may host a second mass vaccination clinic in May or June.

“We were trying to get vaccines off the shelves, into arms, particularly in a community where there were not many vaccinations,” she said.

“The rate was less than 10% in terms of vaccinations and I can definitely say we have contributed to that number going up. With FEMA coming and all the other clinics coming about, we may not need to do it.”

During the news media briefing, Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley provided an update on the city’s vaccine rollout.

He said 190,000 people in Philadelphia have received the first dose of their vaccine, and 94,000 have received their second dose.

“The demographics of the people we are vaccinating is gradually becoming more diverse,” Farley said. “The percent of people vaccinated with the first doses who are African Americans is at 22% — that’s up from 8% initially.”

He said the city has ample doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which needs ultra cold refrigeration, but has a limited number of the Moderna vaccine.

“We are encouraging hospitals to shift to doing the Pfizer vaccine exclusively and we’re encouraging other providers that may be able to use the Pfizer vaccine, to try to use the Pfizer vaccine,” Farley said.

Farley said if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved by the FDA, doses may be available by next week. Philadelphia will receive an initial allocation of 13,000 doses and then won’t receive any more for about six weeks.

U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic.

The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration, Janet Woodcock, said in a statement that the agency will move quickly to follow the recommendation, which would make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S.

Farley said the health department this past week opened three mass vaccinations clinics that can accommodate up to 500 people per day. The clinics are at the Bobby Morgan Arena, University of the Sciences; Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School; and the Martin Luther King Jr. Older Adult Center.

Farley said the federally supported Center City vaccination clinic will open Wednesday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center with a target of vaccinating 6,000 people per day. The site will be available for at least six weeks and residents will be invited from the city’s vaccination sign-up site.

From The Philadelphia Tribune