Philadelphia continues effort to vaccinate underserved communities

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In yet another victory against the coronavirus, a handful of residents in one heavily Hispanic and Latino North Philadelphia community received their first dose of vaccine on Friday.

The doses were given at Norris Square Senior Community, which has a forty-year reputation in this neck of the woods, and it goes a long way.

"Having a clinic in a space that they are familiar with, staff that they know who speak their language, is far less intimidating than going to a mass vaccination center," said Director of Catholic Housing & Community Services Heather Huot.

Catholic Housing and Community Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia teamed up with Centennial Pharmacy Service to administer about 100 vaccines.

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Dr. Farley announced a small expansion with COVID-19 vaccine eligibility group 1b during a news conference on Friday morning.

Center manager Bethzaida Butler said trust, especially among older members of the Latino and Hispanic community, is key.

"Sometimes when they go to big centers they feel very uncomfortable. Here they come and it's like their second home," Butler said.

Also hoping to provide more access to vaccines to underserved communities are organizations like the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition or SEAMAAC.

The group held their vaccine clinic at Bok School in South Philadelphia.
"Just 100 shots today. Hopefully, this will build momentum," said Chief Executive Officer Thoai Nguyen.

Nguyen is critical of city leadership and claims there hasn't been enough outreach.

"Three months after the rollout in the country the city of Philadelphia has failed to provide vaccination, vaccines to some of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities," Nguyen said.

The city has opened at least five mass vaccine sites in underserved communities with more coming.

Just this week, the city also expanded access to shots and the FEMA run site at the Convention Center to walk-ups for those residents that live in 22 of the least vaccinated zip codes.

"Early data says this is working. As of yesterday, of those folks who were vaccinated, 22 percent were African-American, 21 percent were Hispanic. That nearly doubles what we were seeing before and about 20 percent were Asian," said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Doctor Thomas Farley.

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The City of Philadelphia opened walk-up access to eligible people from 22 under-vaccinated zip codes to the FEMA site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City.

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