City launches vaccine ad campaign

The “Vax Up Philly” campaign was launched last week.
PHOTO: City of Philadelphia

Philadelphia has launched its first media campaign to encourage residents to sign up to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

City officials had, until recently, been reluctant to spend money on advertisements, billboards and other messages, citing a limited number of doses.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley unveiled the campaign Friday, saying ads will begin appearing in community newspapers and ethic media outlets with the slogan “Vax Up Philly.”

“Rather than telling people how serious COVID is, because we think most people know that, with a negative message, this campaign has a positive message,” he said. “It emphasizes how vaccination will help get our lives back to normal.”

Samples provided by the mayor’s office show people happily eating in restaurants, visiting family members and attending Phillies games.

Farley said the city plans to spend $1.5 million on the six-month effort. It will evolve over time and expand to include radio and television spots, advertisements on SEPTA and special Mural Arts projects, officials said.

The campaign will also employ “trusted messengers,” Farley added, to convince people who are hesitant to get the vaccine.

“We have definitely seen people who are reluctant to get vaccinated,” he said. “The general responses we hear about why is that the vaccine seems too new, that they’re not necessarily ready to trust it yet.”

About 342,600 Philadelphia residents, or 21.7% of the city’s population, have received at least one dose, according to health department data, which was last updated Friday.

Farley said his department is projecting that 160,000 people a week will be getting vaccinated by the end of April. In recent weeks, Philadelphia has been averaging just over 100,000.

Federal administrators revised the city’s allotment for this week, bumping up the number of Pfizer-BioNTech doses to 26,910 and adding 9,200 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The shipment will also include 15,600 Moderna doses.

City officials are expecting the federal government to establish at least one type 2 Federal Emergency Management Agency vaccination site — capable of inoculating 3,000 people a day — in the near future.

A larger distribution point at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City is currently administering second doses.

Meanwhile, the health department is granting contracts to six providers to establish community clinics.

The request-for-proposals process, soliciting applications from providers, was restarted after it was revealed in January that Deputy Health Commissioner Caroline Johnson may have provided a leg up to Philly Fighting COVID and the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.

Johnson resigned, and the city cut ties with PFC after questions arose about its privacy policy and transition to a for-profit company.

On Friday, the city accepted proposals from the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, Einstein Medical Center, MyDoc Urgent Care, Sunray Drugs, Temple University, the Temple College of Public Health and Jefferson University Hospital.

Details on the contracts are still being hashed out, officials said.

“The idea is that these are providers who are going to vaccinate people who are under-represented in our vaccination statistics or are hard to reach,” Farley said.

The RFP remains open on a rolling basis for organizations interested in operating clinics.