Here’s Where to Get a COVID Vaccination in Philly
The Philadelphia vaccination sites include doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and various mass vaccination clinics run by the city and community partners. But in most cases, you’ll still need to wait for an invite from either the city or your doctor to make an appointment.
Get a compelling long read and must-have lifestyle tips in your inbox every Sunday morning — great with coffee!
As Philadelphia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, there are many people to vaccinate — some 1.2 million Philadelphia adults will eventually be eligible to receive the vaccine — not to mention many places where vaccinations are occurring. Currently, the city is in the 1B phase of vaccinations, which includes frontline essential workers, people 75 years old and up, and those with certain high-risk health conditions like diabetes and cancer. According to the city health department, that group numbers roughly 400,000 people in all, and with the receiving city just shy of 40,000 doses each week from the federal government, it will take weeks to work through that group. Health commissioner Tom Farley currently estimates the city won’t finish 1B vaccinations until late April.
Meanwhile, the city continues to expand the list of vaccine sites, which now includes doctors’ offices, federally qualified health centers, pharmacies, city-run mass clinics, and independent clinics like those being conducted by the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. Come early March, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin operating a clinic of its own at the Convention Center. In short, it’s a lot to keep track of. So here’s a breakdown of what’s going on at the various points of vaccine distribution, as of late February.
Hospitals started off in December by vaccinating their own staffs. Now, physicians have begun reaching out to their most vulnerable patients in the 1B category in order to schedule on-site vaccinations. (This same process is under way at federally qualified health centers.) As of mid-February, Penn, Jefferson and Temple had reached out to a total of nearly 100,000 patients, about a quarter of whom have scheduled appointments, according to the health department.
Farley has noted, however, that the process of bringing in patients individually has been inefficient, creating something of a vaccine surplus. To rectify that, the health department has encouraged hospitals to begin planning mass vaccination clinics of their own. “They do have enough vaccine to do those mass clinics,” Farley says, “and they’re going to need to do that in order to spend the vaccine they have.”
The city is also planning to fund mass vaccine clinics through a grant process and is currently reviewing submissions. According to health department spokesperson Jim Garrow, a number of hospitals are already planning to run mass clinics to speed up vaccinations, even without the immediate promise of city funding. “The hope is that if they apply and are funded, they’ll be able to expand those mass vaccine operations,” says Garrow.
The city has tasked pharmacies with vaccinating people over the age of 75, and availability continues to expand by the week. Walgreens, Rite Aid, ShopRite, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Acme are all offering vaccine appointments at various locations, along with eight independent pharmacies. The health department will be contacting eligible people from its vaccine interest form, either by phone or email, to set up appointments directly with pharmacies. People over the age of 75 can also try contacting pharmacies directly to set up appointments. Either way, there is more demand than supply of doses, which means it may take multiple attempts to confirm an appointment with a pharmacy. Even an invitation from the health department to make an appointment does not necessarily guarantee immediate availability. The city maintains a map of all eligible vaccine providers, including pharmacies, which you can consult here. (This map strictly provides a visualization of where vaccine is being administered; it does not show where vaccine appointments are available at a given time.)
Health Department Initiatives
The health department has its own vaccination site that has been vaccinating between 500 and 600 health-care workers per week. In addition, city health workers have been fanning out to behavioral health facilities across the city to perform vaccinations.
As of February 22nd, the health department has also begun vaccinating members of the public at three mass vaccination clinics. Those clinics are being held at the Martin Luther King Older Adult Center in North Philly, the Community Academy of Philadelphia Charter School in Harrowgate, and the University of the Sciences in West Philly. All three clinics remain appointment-only, with the city inviting eligible people from its vaccine interest form. Each site will run two clinics per week — one for first doses and one for second doses. The health department estimates each site will administer roughly 500 shots per day, for a total of 3,000 shots per week.
Mass Vaccination Clinics
The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium is the main community group organizing mass vaccination clinics in the city. The majority of the group’s clinics are appointment-only, and after more than 40,000 people registered on the BDCC’s interest form, the group has had to shut down further sign-ups, in order to work its way through that initial cohort. Last weekend, though, the group did pilot a 24-hour clinic at Temple’s Liacouras Center, which included walk-in appointments for the first time. As people braved cold weather and long lines, the BDCC vaccinated 4,000 people. The BDCC will continue to operate appointment-based clinics, and according to the health department, may also run future walk-in clinics.
Along with the BDCC, a number of other health-care groups are starting mass clinics of their own. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has partnered with the city to vaccinate Philadelphia’s teachers and other school personnel. The first of those clinics began on February 22nd. The hospital aims to have all student-facing personnel fully vaccinated within six weeks, or by the end of March.
Finally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is set to begin operating a mass clinic at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on March 3rd. Health department officials say that clinic should be able to vaccinate 6,000 people per day, which would make it the highest-throughput clinic in the city by a significant margin. What’s more, those doses from the FEMA clinic will not be coming out of the city’s weekly allocation of doses. The city will be managing invitations to the FEMA clinic and Farley says his department will prioritize residents of ZIP codes with the lowest rates of vaccinations.
So What Should You Do If You Qualify For a Vaccine?
For starters, you (along with anyone else in the city, 1B or not) can register on the city’s vaccine interest form, which will enable the city to contact you once it’s your turn to receive the vaccine. People without internet access can call the city’s hotline at 215-685-5488 or 311 to get on the list. If you previously registered interest in the vaccine through Philly Fighting COVID, you should re-register through the official city portal. Keep in mind that signing up through the form doesn’t necessarily mean you will be receiving an immediate invitation to receive the vaccine. (More than 230,000 people have filled out the form so far.)
If you think you’re eligible for vaccine right now, you have some other options. If you’re over the age of 75 or eligible because of a health condition, you can reach out directly to your medical provider to see about scheduling an appointment. People over 75 can also reach out directly to pharmacies. And if you’re an essential worker, you can speak to your employer and encourage them to fill out the health department’s separate interest form for businesses. On that form, business owners can list the number of employees they believe are essential workers under the city’s 1B or 1C guidelines, and the health department says a representative will reach out to schedule vaccinations as the opportunity arises.