PHILADELPHIA— Penn Medicine will continue its collaboration with the West and Southwest Philadelphia communities to operate a series of COVID-19 vaccine clinics in partnership with community organizations, faith-based institutions, restaurants, barbershops, and even professional sports teams thanks to $1 million in funding from the City of Philadelphia, in partnership with PMHCC.
The funding will help extend the mission of the collaborative clinics to address racial inequity in vaccine distribution, and reach Black, brown, and underserved communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. So far, the clinics have vaccinated approximately 8,000 Philadelphians, the majority of whom are Black, at community sites in West, Southwest and South Philadelphia, including at a church, recreation center and schools. Penn Medicine has also collaborated with the Philadelphia Flyers and Phillies to vaccinate fans and employees at games and is continuing its efforts to vaccinate homebound Philadelphians.
“We are committed to reaching people where they are to make getting this lifesaving vaccine as easy as possible,” said PJ Brennan, MD, chief medical officer for the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “We are being creative about where we can not only administer the vaccine but also have important conversations about vaccination and its impact on the health of our community.”
Nationwide, the rollout for the COVID-19 vaccine has been inequitable, with white individuals being vaccinated at higher rates than Black individuals. Penn Medicine plans to use takeaways from its initial clinics, which were published in NEJM Catalyst, to support ongoing vaccination efforts. Insights include locating clinics in easily accessible locations within Black communities; embracing walk-in appointments and low-tech registration; designing clinics to be scalable in a variety of spaces; and operating clinics outside of traditional business hours. Another key strategy has been to prioritize input from key community leaders, who also help build trust and leverage neighborhood-level networks to raise awareness and support for vaccination.
“The Health Department has made distributing vaccine equitably one of our core goals,” said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “The community vaccine RFP was designed to encourage applicants to help ensure that those communities that have had the least access to the vaccine can get it. Penn Medicine’s initiative can help accomplish that.”