FEMA delivers its last COVID-vaccine doses in Philadelphia; Convention center site to remain open

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- FEMA delivered its last COVID-19 vaccine doses Tuesday at two federally-funded vaccination clinics in Philadelphia.

The agency is now focusing on its next mission: gearing up for hurricane season. The federal agency closing its vaccination clinics at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Esperanza.

The Convention Center vaccination clinic will reopen staffed by the Philadelphia health department on Thursday, with a capacity to vaccinate up to 500 people per day. It is one of 280 sites in the city where you can find a vaccine.

It was a quiet ending to FEMA's massive mission.

More than 200 staffers, military members and volunteers are packing up and moving on after 12 weeks focused solely on vaccinating Philadelphia.

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"You are now able to move on to your next assignment. That, to me, is a sign of hope, that the city of Philadelphia is coming back," said City Representative Sheila Hess.

The FEMA-run vaccination clinics vaccinated 25% of the city's population during the 12-week time span.

"Both the FEMA run sites administered 350,000 vaccines," said FEMA Region 3 Acting Administrator Janice Barlow.

The days of long lines outside the vaccination site which could immunize 6,000 people per day are gone. Forty-four percent of eligible Philadelphians are vaccinated.

Now it's time to shift a focus from massive vaccination centers to massive outreach efforts to bring the vaccine to people, not people to the vaccine.

"If we really want to tackle disparities we need to figure out who needs this vaccine and make it very easy," said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, Acting Philadelphia Health Commissioner.

One great advantage to vaccine accessibility: the FDA has announced less restrictive storage for Pfizer vaccines.

"The Pfizer vaccine can now be stored in refrigerators for up to 30 days rather than requiring ultra-low temperatures, and that is a game-changer," said Dr. Bettigole.
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