City ending partnership with Philly Fighting COVID after change to for-profit organization

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced it is no longer working with Philly Fighting COVID to provide testing or vaccines.

This development comes just a little over a week after an estimated 6,800 people received the COVID-19 vaccine at a mass clinic at the Pennsylvania Convention Center hosted by Philly Fighting COVID.

Approximately 2,500 healthcare workers were vaccinated over two days at the site.

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Thousands of healthcare workers received doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Pennsylvania and Delaware this weekend.



The health department cites Philly Fighting COVID's change in corporate status as the reason for the end in partnership.

On Tuesday, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley explained why the city cut ties.

"They had gone from non-profit to for-profit status. They had information in their incorporation documents that they would have the ability to sell the information from their website. We did not think that was appropriate," said Dr. Farley.

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Philly Fighting COVID is opening a testing site at The Fillmore.



The updated company policy, edited on Monday, says "The company will not sell data to any parties."

City officials said they haven't been notified of any sold data and that Philly Fighting COVID made the changes without discussing it with them.

"We're working with our law department to make sure that that doesn't happen," said Farley.

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District Attorney Larry Krasner released this statement reading, in part:

"I encourage members of the public, including City employees, who have information about what they believe to be crimes related to this matter or other pandemic relief efforts, to contact our Special Investigations Unit directly: DAO_SIU@phila.gov or 215-686-9608."

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is also looking into the matter. Releasing this statement:

"Taking advantage of people and their privacy under the guise of serving as a nonprofit is not only unethical -- it can also be against Pennsylvania law. These allegations against Philly Fighting COVID are serious and any consumers who believe they have been misled should file a complaint with our office -- online, by phone, or by emailing charities@attorneygeneral.gov. We have been in touch with the City to obtain any information they can provide about these allegations. Our office oversees charitable organizations in the Commonwealth and we will ensure they are acting in good faith with the communities they serve."

The health department is currently developing plans to shift future vaccine allocations to other providers.

It is also scheduling new clinics to ensure that people who were vaccinated at PFC's clinics at the Convention Center can get their second dose.

For Philadelphians, there is no official sign up through the Department of Public Health's website so far, but there is an interest form to fill out. The City of Philadelphia strongly recommends that people who wish to express their interest in vaccination do so in the city's portal at https://www.phila.gov/vaccineinterest.

There are clinics run by other organizations like Black Doctors Consortium later Tuesday and Thursday, sign-ups are needed.

Philly Fighting COVID updated its private policy on Monday. It says, "The company will not sell data to any parties."

This is PFC's statement:

"Over the past 48 hours there have been several inquiries into Philly Fighting Covid and I would like to formally set the record straight - on the company, our intentions, and our goals in helping the city of Philadelphia.

We started Philly Fighting Covid in 2020 as a group of volunteers with a 3D printer to make PPE for essential workers. Our goal was to help frontline works and use our resources to the best of our abilities. As our team grew, so did our ability to help more people in the fight against COVID, by testing over 20,000 Philadelphians and working with the City's Department of health to ensure essential health care workers, including 6,800 people, have safely received their first of two vaccinations. We are grateful for the Health Department and the opportunity provided.

We understand that there have been legitimate inquiries into our privacy policies. There was language in our privacy policy that was problematic and as soon as we became aware of it, we removed it. I apologize, for the mistake in our privacy policy. We never have and never would sell, share, or disseminate any data we collected as it would be in violation of HIPAA rules.

We are aware that some were taken aback when we pivoted from testing to vaccines and we sincerely apologize for any miscommunications. Our intention was never to cause confusion or harm. From Day 1 our goal was to help as many people as we could and ultimately eradicate this virus. As the vaccine became available for distribution, we did not have enough resources to do both and made a choice to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, as we believe that is what will help end this pandemic.

Vaccinating large groups of people takes resources, manpower, and ultimately financial help. That is why we also shifted gears to a for-profit company - so that we could expand our operations team and accelerate the vaccine distribution. We never hid our intentions with the city and were making the change for good reasons. We included the new company in the RFP we submitted to the city last week. We have always intended on scaling up the number of clinics to eventually vaccinate more people (we have been working for months on plans to scale-up vaccinations and have shared them with the city) and money is needed to do that.

We are here for Philly. "

Statement from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health:

"The Philadelphia Department of Public Health will no longer work with Philly Fighting COVID to provide testing or vaccine, effective immediately. We have recently been made aware of a change in PFC's corporate status that took place without our knowledge, from nonprofit to for-profit. As part of this change, PFC updated its data privacy policy in a way that could allow the organization to sell data collected through PFC's pre-registration site. The City has not been notified of any of these data having been sold. But for PFC to have made these changes without discussion with the City is extremely troubling. As a result of these concerns, along with PFC's unexpected stoppage of testing operations, the Health Department has decided to stop providing vaccine to PFC.

The Health Department is currently developing plans to shift future vaccine allocations to other providers, and is scheduling new clinics to ensure that people who were vaccinated at PFC's clinics at the Convention Center can get their second dose. The Health Department will be in contact with each of those people to set up appointments.

In order to ensure that the Health Department is aware of each Philadelphia resident who is interested in receiving vaccine, the City strongly recommends that people who wish to express their interest in vaccination do so in the City's portal at https://www.phila.gov/vaccineinterest. By registering through this website, the Health Department will be able to contact you to set up an appointment when you are eligible and vaccine is available."
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