Thomas Farley

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley says African Americans accounted for only 12% of vaccinations given so far in the city on Tuesday. SCREENSHOT

According to newly released data by the city, African Americans are under-represented among those who have received COVID-19 vaccinations. The city's vaccine effort began last month.

Blacks have received 12% of the 28,476 vaccines administered since the first vaccine dose was given in the city on Dec. 16. African Americans, who make up 44% of the city’s population, are more likely to get infected and die from COVID-19.

The city’s newly released racial data on the vaccination program found whites were administered 43% of the vaccines, marking an over-representation in terms of their share of the city’s population (34%).

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Hispanics and Latinos were also underrepresented, accounting for 5% of all vaccinations while making up 15% of the city’s population. Asian Americans received 10% of the vaccines. The city lacked racial data on 19% of the individuals who have received the vaccine, while another 10% were classified as “other.”

Hospitals received the bulk of the initial vaccine doses and were tasked with administering the vaccines to their eligible healthcare workers.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said hospitals offer all eligible healthcare workers the COVID-19 vaccine but acknowledged the racial gap was a problem, particularly among African Americans. The city lacked racial demographics of hospital workers.

Farley recognized the mistrust among African Americans about taking vaccines, considering the U.S. government’s history of unethical experimentation on Blacks and medical racism. The health commissioner has tasked hospitals to address the racial gaps. 

“I don’t think this ... is going to magically disappear no matter what they [hospitals] do,” Farley said. “No one can force people to be vaccinated.”

This week the city was allocated 9,500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Moderna, and 9,750 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. The weekly vaccine allocation is expected to remain at those levels through January.

If that weekly distribution of vaccine doses were to continue, it would take more 12 months to vaccine all residents, Farley said. He said the city’s current allocation of vaccine doses was not adequate.

Pharmacies began vaccinating nursing home residents and workers at a single city facility last week, which is expanded to 22 facilities this week.

The city distributed doses of the vaccine to its qualified health clinics last week to start vaccinating those healthcare workers. This week, healthcare workers at other medical sites will begin receiving the vaccine, including private primary care practices.

Through an agreement with the Kenney administration, Rite Aid will offer COVID-19 vaccinations only to healthcare workers at its 26 sites in Philadelphia.

The city could be seeing a possible uptick in COVID-19 cases, which Farley attributed to people gathering for the holidays and increasing cases in the region.

The city logged 805 new positive COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, and 111 new probable cases diagnosed by the rapid antigen test. Thirty-six new virus-related deaths were reported.

Last week the city averaged 487 cases per day with a 9.1% positivity rate. The week before that, which ended Dec. 26, the city averaged 570 cases a day with an 8.7% positivity rate.

The leveling out of positive COVID-19 cases ended a gradual decrease of cases leading into Christmas, Farley said.

“The fact that [positive COVID-19 cases] have leveled off during this past week is an unwelcomed change,” he said.

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