Convention Center vaccine site to stay open another month

FEMA helps administer COVID-19 vaccines in Philadelphia
A military personnel logs a patient’s information at FEMA’s Community Vaccination Center in Philadelphia.
REUTERS/Hannah Beier

Philadelphia’s largest vaccination site will remain open through May 26, officials said Wednesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency-backed operation at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City was due to close near the end of this month.

City leaders and elected officials had for weeks been urging the Biden administration to extend the arrangement to bolster the city’s vaccine roll-out; however, the decision was ultimately based on the move to “pause” use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Prior to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that providers should temporarily stop administering the J&J shot, the plan was to begin using it at the Convention Center.

In fact, after finishing a round of second doses earlier this week, officials intended to shift from Pfizer-BioNTech to J&J on Tuesday, the same day the FDA and CDC issued its guidance.

The site has reverted back to Pfizer, which means people inoculated at the Convention Center have to return for a second dose three weeks later.

If FEMA can keep up the 6,000-dose a day pace, a total of 126,000 people will be able to get vaccinated by May 5, when the site will shift to second doses for three weeks.

Local officials have been told that an extra 84,000 Pfizer doses will be arriving in the city Monday to supply the Convention Center. In the meantime, the site will receive doses from a Pfizer stockpile already in Philadelphia, according to the health department.

For each day the Convention Center is open, 4,000 doses will be provided by the federal government, with an additional 2,000 from the city’s allocation.

The Center City location opened in early March, and, this past weekend, a second, smaller FEMA-supported site began inoculating residents at Esperanza’s Hunting Park campus.

It had been using the J&J vaccine but transitioned to Pfizer Wednesday.