Virus Outbreak-Pennsylvania Convention Center

A COVID-19 vaccination site is set up at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia. —AP Photo/Matt Rourke

It’ll be open every day and stick around at least six weeks, officials say.

A new clinic supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency has the potential to double the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Philadelphia each day.

Located at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the site is being run as a partnership between the city and the federal government. It’s part of a nearly $4 billion plan for FEMA to support more than 400 community vaccination centers across the country.

Philly’s clinic will get staffing and supplies from the feds, including more than 200 members of the military and extra vaccine doses.

Dubbed the Center City Vaccination Center, the site is meant to serve Philadelphia residents. It’s expected to launch Wednesday, and remain open for at least six weeks, until mid-April.

Once it’s up and running, the target is for the CCVC to provide around 6,000 doses daily, according to Philly Health Commissioner Tom Farley. That’s about equal to the average daily throughput of all other city providers combined.

The center will be open seven days a week and operate 12 hours a day, offering a much larger window than other standing sites in Philadelphia.

You can’t just show up, however. Like most other clinics, service will be by appointment only, with invites sent to eligible folks who’ve signed up at the city’s main vaccine interest registry. When you arrive, you’ll have to show ID that matches the name on the scheduled visit in order to get your shot.

Here’s a rundown of details you might want to know, all according to releases from FEMA and the city Health Department’s regular coronavirus briefings.

What are the operating hours?

8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week

Who’s in charge of the site?

Official partners in the Center City Vaccination Center include:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Philadelphia Department of Public Health

Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM)

Where is the staff coming from?

Clinical staff will include people from the city and federal partners, including uniformed members of the military.

The U.S. Marine Corps is sending a complement of 222 people, and people who’ve signed up as volunteers with the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps are also being tapped to help.

How do I get an appointment?

You’ll need an invitation in order to schedule an appointment. The Philly Health Department is in charge of inviting people, which they are doing by email and telephone. Some invites have already gone out to eligible city residents, according to Health Commissioner Farley.

Get on the list by signing up at phila.gov/vaccineinterest or calling 311.

Who’s eligible?

Anyone eligible to receive the COVID vaccine in Philadelphia is eligible to get vaccinated at the CCVC. Right now that’s people in Phase 1A or Phase 1B, which includes:

• Health care workers and home health aides

• Residents and staff in long-term care facilities and other congregate settings

• Certain high-risk essential workers (including first-responders, public transit, teachers, food service)

• People with certain high-risk medical conditions (including pregnancy, obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease)

• Anyone over the age of 75

Depending on how many people want to get vaccinated, the city could finish these groups by the end of April, Health Commissioner Farley estimated.

Next up is Phase 1C, which includes lower-risk essential workers in fields like sanitation, construction, maintenance and utilities. That could be complete by the end of May, Farley said, at which point anyone over the age of 16 will become eligible.

Some federal workers may also be vaccinated at the CCVC.

What if I already signed up and haven’t gotten an invite?

Over 200,000 people are in the city’s registry, per Farley. Invites are being sent to people deemed eligible according to answers submitted when you signed up.

It’s unclear exactly how the Health Department is selecting who gets invited when. People who live in ZIP codes that currently have the lowest rates of vaccination are being prioritized, Farley said, in order to even things out across Philly neighborhoods.

What if people who aren’t eligible sign up?

They’ll probably get away with it.

People who receive invitations via email aren’t supposed to forward the signup link to friends or family, but that’s been happening across the nation.

There’s currently nothing to keep anyone who has the link from signing up even if they’re not eligible or don’t live in Philadelphia. “We’re trying to work on an information technology for that,” said Health Commissioner Farley.

What ID do I need to bring?

You’ll need to bring identification to your scheduled appointment.

It can be any government-issued ID that has your contact info (think driver’s license, passport), or a utility bill showing your name and Philadelphia address

Should undocumented people worry?

Reportedly no. Although the site is being run by the federal government, FEMA has promised immigration sweeps will not take place there.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics,” the agency said in a release.

Which vaccines will be administered?

It’s likely that clinicians at the Convention Center site will be administering the Moderna vaccine — which does not need ultra-cold storage — or the Pfizer vaccine, which does.

Both of those require two doses, so anyone who gets their first shot at the CCVC will then need to be scheduled for a followup appointment.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one dose, is more likely to be used where doctors can have direct discussions with their patients, Farley said, including Federally Qualified Health Centers and hospitals.

Will this slow down vaccination at other Philly sites?

It shouldn’t, because the FEMA site is coming with its own separate shipments of vaccine.

So far, the CDC has been distributing vaccine across the country on a per capita basis, so the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is receiving doses in proportion to the city’s population. Close to half those doses have so far gone to people who live in the suburbs. That’s expected to shift as community sites ramp up and the categories of who’s eligible changes.

However, the doses being administered at the Convention Center will come from a different pool and won’t count against the per capita allocation.

Will FEMA sites open in other parts of Pennsylvania?

It’s possible.

Philly was selected in part because of its score on the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, a measure that takes into account various info from the census regarding housing, transportation, income level, race and ethnicity, among other data.

Input from local and regional officials also factored into the decision to use the Convention Center for Pennsylvania’s first FEMA site, according to the agency, which noted that the commonwealth could eventually get more: “FEMA is working with Pennsylvania officials to assess other potential federally supported vaccination sites across the state.”

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