FEMA to open mass vaccination site at Pennsylvania Convention Center

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- FEMA is planning to open a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in early March.

The site is anticipated to open on March 3, FEMA announced Friday.

FEMA, CDC, HHS, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and the City of Philadelphia have partnered to open the vaccination site.

"Much has yet to be worked out," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said during a press briefing.

FEMA and federal partners are planning to support the site through staffing, operations, logistics and vaccine allocations.

"The Philadelphia site, like other federally supported sites across the country, was selected based on data analysis including the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index and other Census data, as well as input from our state and local partners," FEMA said in a release.

According to FEMA, the Philadelphia site could have a vaccination throughput of several thousand doses per day once at maximum operating capacity and would come with its own vaccination allocation, in addition to what the City of Philadelphia already receives.

Farley repeated the allocation information during his briefing.

"Federal government has different sites which they designate as Type 1 and Type 2. This is a Type 1 site. The vaccines are going to come with the federal support, so it's not taken out of our local allocation," Farley said.

FEMA said ensuring vulnerable and under-served populations have access to vaccines was a priority in the site selection process.

"The Pennsylvania Convention Center's central location, accessibility by public transportation, logistics capability, large size, and existing city contracts in support of vaccination operations made it a logical choice for the first federally operated site in Pennsylvania," FEMA said.

FEMA and federal partner agencies said they will provide clinical and support staff for the site, "freeing the City of Philadelphia up to focus staff and resource on vaccination efforts in neighborhoods throughout the city."

"We do think the Convention Center can handle the large volume we're talking about. A Type 1 site is supposed to be 6,000 people per day, which is quite a few people, but it's a very large convention center and it's got great transportation access," Farley said.

Specific details on an opening date and the registration process are still to come, FEMA said.

"Every city in the country, including Philadelphia, is currently struggling with not having enough COVID vaccine to meet the demand of their residents, so this center will make a huge difference," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. "We look forward to seeing this COVID-19 Vaccination Center join our system of vaccine distribution channels which includes community clinics, hospitals, neighborhood-based health centers, pharmacies, mobile sites and more."

FEMA is working with Pennsylvania officials to assess other potential federally supported vaccination sites across the state.
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