Without apology or remorse, Philly Fighting COVID CEO attacks city Health Department

Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin called for Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley to step down. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin called for Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley to step down. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In the lobby of his Fishtown apartment building on Friday, Andrei Doroshin blamed everyone but himself. Without providing details or evidence, the Philly Fighting COVID CEO alleged that a political conspiracy led to the city’s decision to cut ties with his now-disgraced vaccine distribution group.

At a press conference attended by more than 10 media members, Doroshin was asked whether he owed anybody an apology. The 22-year-old, who did not wear a face mask much of the time, simply responded, “No.”

He maintained that any fault lay with Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, and that, behind the scenes, “dirty power politics” were at play, though he declined to cite specifics.

Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin talked to reporters in his apartment building Friday. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“I have yet to find out why they cut ties, but I strongly believe there should be an investigation into the reason for this … into why we were cut out,” Doroshin said. “I don’t know who’s behind this, but I do know Dr. Farley is the one who made the call.”

Doroshin first came under fire after his 9-month-old start-up ditched community testing and formed a for-profit company dedicated to distributing vaccines. The company launched the city’s first mass vaccination clinic at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but after three weekends, Farley announced the city was ending the relationship and would no longer provide doses to Philly Fighting COVID.

The city said the decision was based on a new privacy policy that would have allowed PFC to sell user data. Doroshin later admitted taking vaccines off site and administering them to friends, in violation of city policy.

In Fishtown on Friday, Doroshin defended his improper vaccine handling and reiterated several times that he thought Farley should resign.

Mayor Jim Kenney is standing by his top doctor, whom he appointed in 2016. His office immediately denounced Doroshin’s remarks, calling the idea of replacing the city’s health commissioner during an ongoing pandemic “irresponsible and dangerous.”

“Mr. Doroshin’s claims that a ‘political conspiracy’ is at play are absurd,” said city spokesperson Lauren Cox. “His organization is no longer a partner of the city because of his own poor decision making.”

Some state lawmakers are now calling for Farley to resign over the PFC fiasco, questioning the commissioner’s decision to entrust the organization with vaccines in the first place.

Doroshin, a Drexel graduate student, claimed the city knew about his organization’s for-profit status and the privacy agreement, though he could offer no other reason why the city would end the relationship with a group it had provided 6,950 vaccine doses — 6% of the city’s total to date.

Asked about other groups like the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, Doroshin said they were not ready to step up with a vaccination program as Philly Fighting COVID did.

“She did not present a plan,” he said, speaking of Black Doctors Consortium founder Dr. Ala Stanford.

Stanford, in numerous interviews, has contended her organization had proven itself and was up to the task. Her group is currently administering vaccines in Philadelphia, and in a letter released Friday, Mayor Kenney instructed the Health Department to transfer any remaining PFC allocation of doses to the Black Doctors Consortium.

An indoor press conference without building permission

Within days, Doroshin has gone from the unlikely wunderkind of Philadelphia’s mass vaccination plan to a one-man operation, trying to salvage his organization’s work.

He said that he told all his staff to resign this week, and that he’s leaving town this weekend because of “death threats,” but that he intends on continuing to do vaccination work.

Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin invites reporters into this apartment building. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Throughout the hourlong press conference, Doroshin made numerous unsubstantiated accusations, often contradicting his past statements.

He claimed that “Tom Farley did not want to do vaccines,” and that City Councilmember Bobby Henon, who earlier this week spoke in defense of PFC, persuaded him otherwise.

“Dr. Farley has been talking about the prospect of vaccines being the way out of this pandemic since at least summer 2020,” said Health Department spokesperson James Garrow. “It is ridiculous to think that a single comment by anyone would clue the Health Commissioner into thinking that maybe vaccines were the way to go.”

Before his sudden Thursday morning confession on the “Today” show, Doroshin had explicitly denied a WHYY News report that he had pocketed vaccines: “This is baseless, I have no idea why they are saying this,” he told Philadelphia Magazine. Asked about the change of tune, Doroshin on Friday claimed he never said that.

He confessed on Friday to vaccinating his girlfriend, but did not account for the other three syringes he told the “Today” show he took. On Friday, Doroshin again claimed he did nothing wrong by taking the vaccines off site, though city policy explicitly bars this practice.

“Our recommendation is most certainly not to take vials of vaccine away from a clinic site and have an unlicensed person administer vaccinations to their friends,” said Garrow, the Health Department spokesperson.

Ernest Owens, president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, questioned whether Doroshin had thought about the safety precautions needed to host an in-person press conference indoors during a pandemic. “That’s a personal environment, how do we know that precautions are being done?” he asked.

Owens noted that many press events are now virtual, but when governments host in-person press conferences, they have measures like temperature checks and clear social distancing parameters.

Doroshin, who was not wearing a mask as he spoke with the media, also did not seek authorization from his apartment building to host the indoor press conference, which drew more than 10 reporters from various news outlets.

“The tenant did not tell us,” a property manager at GY Properties, the building’s owner, told WHYY. “We were very surprised to come to the building and see so many people, some of them unmasked, which is a concern to our tenants.”

Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin invited reporters into his apartment building for a press conference claiming dirty city politics were to blame for the city’s cutting ties with his company. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Other tenants in the building have previously made complaints against Doroshin, alleging he did not wear a mask in public spaces, the property manager added.

Dorohsin stuck to the argument that the need for rapid vaccinations took precedence over his group’s malpractice, for which he was remorseless.

“It was a perfect machine,” said Doroshin, who said he wouldn’t have done anything differently. “In fact, I want to get back to work.”

Mayor Kenney has called on the Health Department to produce a report detailing the arrangement with Philly Fighting COVID, while City Council sets its sights on hearings and District Attorney Larry Krasner seeks witnesses of any potentially criminal misconduct.

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