Pa. coronavirus update: FEMA’s Center City site will soon switch to one-shot J&J vaccine

A National Guard member vaccinates someone against COVID-19 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center

Essential city workers are among the first to be served by FEMA's mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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Philadelphia’s Center City vaccination site will soon switch over to the one-dose, Johnson & Johnson vaccine, officials announced Monday.

Starting Tuesday, for the next three weeks, the site will finish giving second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but will no longer administer first doses or accept walk-ups.

Once those second doses are done, the site will begin doling out the one-dose vaccine for two weeks, according to a release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which helps run the location.

The Center City Vaccination site opened on March 3, with the stated goal of “expanding the rate of vaccinations in the City of Philadelphia in an efficient, effective, and equitable manner, with a focus on communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection.”

Since then, vaccination clinics have multiplied around Philadelphia. There are now rotating City-run clinics in several neighborhoods, as well as pop-up clinics targeting people from under-served backgrounds or who hold specific high-risk professions. That’s in addition to the pharmacies, community health centers, and hospitals which receive and hand out doses.

While targeting under-served city residents, the Center City site also catered to many people who were ineligible, due to the lack of screening on the sign-up website.

“We know that at the vaccination center, we are having an under-representation of African Americans and Latinos,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley on March 12.

Starting last Wednesday, the site invited walk-ups from underserved neighborhoods for six days to try to correct for that inequity. Walk-up appointments will end when the location switches to providing only second doses.

The FEMA site was initially envisioned to run for only eight weeks, although Farley said officials would like that period to run for longer.

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