By Jamyra Perry
PHILADELPHIA — Operation Philly Special has called for Lincoln Financial Field, also known as the Linc, to be used as a FEMA mega site for vaccinations despite Mayor Jim Kenney’s reservations.
Led by Philadelphia elected officials and community partners, Operation Philly Special is a playbook for bringing all of the city’s assets together to get the COVID-19 vaccines administered as quickly as possible.
Councilman Allan Domb said a lot of people want to see the Linc used as a vaccination site and he hopes that Kenney will soon be one of those people.
“It’s important because the president of the United States strongly recommended we use stadiums for vaccination sites. The NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made available the NFL stadiums plus all of the Eagles are on board to do it. I believe we have most of our hospitals in the area willing to participate including the Black Doctors COVID Consortium,” Domb said.
Officials said that if Kenney approved the plan, the site could administer thousands of doses a day.
“You can do 6,000 vaccinations a day there, and every other major city is using stadiums. There are six cities in the United States getting their vaccinations directly from the federal government, five of them are using stadiums. The one that is not is us, Philadelphia. This is our largest physical asset in the city, by far. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have other locations all over the city. I believe we should do every possible location across the city to give everyone access,” Domb said.
Dr. Delana Wardlaw, a former volunteer with the Black Doctors COVID Consortium, said stadiums can serve as good vaccination sites but shouldn’t be the only places considered.
“In this pandemic to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible so that we can get to what is herd immunity so that we can slow the spread of this, of this virus is the ultimate goal. However, the stadium should only be considered in addition to community vaccination sites. We have to still make sure that the communities that are most vulnerable and the communities that are disproportionately affected by coronavirus also have access to the vaccine as well,” Wardlaw said.
Kenney is worried that a large venue like the Linc will encourage out-of-towners to come to Philadelphia for the vaccine. He has offered the Pennsylvanian Convention Center as a vaccination site, but Domb said that has drawbacks.
“The convention center is a great site. But if you go to a convention center, and you’re driving, you got to pay $20-30 to park your car. Plus you’re going inside, how safe is that?” he said.
The councilman said the goal of Operation Philly Special is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
“Our goal is to work together with everyone. This is a crisis. This is a pandemic. The mayor should be agreeable to seeing that issue and working with everyone. We need to build coalitions and ensure that every Philadelphian is vaccinated. We can provide that access and equity,” Domb said.
Domb said he understands that the Linc can’t become a mega site overnight but it would benefit the city in the long run.
“We may not be ready to do this tomorrow because we’re not getting enough vaccinations yet. But President Biden said we’re going to be getting 200 million vaccinations at some point. We’re going to start seeing 50,000 to 75,000 vaccinations a week. We need to be prepared, we need to have a plan in place. That’s what this is about. This is about being prepared. I always say in anything I’ve ever done prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Let’s have a plan in place so that we don’t stub our toe,” he said.
Jamyra Perry is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.