By Michael D’Onofrio
PHILADELPHIA — The COVID-19 vaccination campaign will launch Wednesday in Philadelphia targeting occupations represented by African Americans.
A small number of city hospitals will administer the first doses of the vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, to their healthcare workers routinely exposed to the virus, said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley on Tuesday. Those hospitals will redistribute vaccine doses to every city hospital soon.
Nursing home staff and residents will be administered the vaccination starting next week, Farley said.
The first group receiving the vaccine — healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes — “tend to be more likely African American,” Farley said. That trend will continue as the vaccination distribution is expanded in the months ahead.
“You’re going to find that racial groups that are more heavily hit are going to be more likely to get the vaccine by the nature of their occupation,” Farley said.
The city will receive 13,650 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week. The city’s Department of Public Health will manage the distribution of the vaccine.
The individuals in the first vaccination phase number approximately 100,000.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the first emergency use authorization for the vaccine manufactured by the Pfizer and BioNTech on Friday. New Jersey and Delaware administered the first doses of the vaccine today.
The FDA is considering an emergency use authorization for a second vaccine, manufactured by Moderna, this week. Philadelphia is expected to receive 27,600 vaccines of the Moderna vaccine if it is authorized, Farley said.
How many vaccination doses the city will receive in the coming weeks remains unknown due to uncertainties around how fast manufacturers can produce them, Farley said.
Health officials’ vaccination plan will prioritize the following groups in this order:
- Critical infrastructure workers, like educators and correctional officers
- Individuals living in congregate settings, behavioral health facilities and group homes
- Individuals over the age of 65
- Individuals with underlying medical conditions
- Everyone else
Hospitals and workplaces will administer the initial vaccination doses to their staff, Farley said. As the priority groups expand and the city receives more doses, health officials will expand the sites where the vaccine will be offered.
While new positive cases for COVID-19 remain extremely high, the surge in cases caused by gatherings on Thanksgiving may be subsiding.
New COVID-19 positive cases numbered 1,223 Tuesday, which Farley said was high because the city received a large number of test results.
The city averaged 784 cases per day last week, which was expected to rise due to delays in reporting. The positive rate was 10.8 percent.
The previous week, between Nov. 29 through Dec. 5, the city averaged 1,028 cases per day.
Six new deaths attributed to COVID-19 were reported on Monday. Farley said the city was experiencing a rising trend in deaths, which was expected to continue.
Hospitalizations rose to 920 patients this week, up by 30 patients from the previous week. Farley said hospitalizations may be stabilizing, noting the increase in hospitalizations was slight compared to spikes in previous weeks.
Farley credited the city’s stricter COVID-19 restrictions put in place on Nov. 20, which closed gyms and banned indoor dining at restaurants, as potentially blunting some of the surge in cases since Thanksgiving. The city’s restrictions preempted the state’s restrictions put in place on Saturday.
Between Nov. 20 and Dec. 12, the city’s COVID-19 case count rose 7 percent compared to 66 percent statewide, Farley said.
“It’s evidence that we’ve limited that increase with our restrictions,” Farley said. “We know that those restrictions are very difficult for some businesses here in Philadelphia but they clearly are important.”
Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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