Council pushes Kenney on stadium vaccine site

City Councilman Allan Domb, pictured at a press conference near the South Philadelphia sports complex earlier this month, accused Mayor Jim Kenney of pitting Philadelphia communities against each other.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Since saying a proposal to use Lincoln Financial Field as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site would benefit “white privileged suburban residents” and derail racial equity efforts, Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration has softened its stance.

On Tuesday, Kenney wouldn’t rule out using the South Philadelphia sports complex in some capacity, and his office said Thursday that the mayor is interested in discussing large open-air sites.

Still, City Councilman Allan Domb, a leading proponent of the stadium plan, doubled down on the idea Thursday, pushing through a resolution calling on Kenney to immediately factor in the Linc, as well as churches, parking lots and the Mann Center.

Domb said he couldn’t understand the arguments, made by Kenney and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, that a clinic at the Eagles stadium would draw in suburban residents and be difficult to access for people without cars.

He accused Kenney of pitting communities against each other and overlooking simple solutions, such as requiring people to show identification before receiving their injection.

“What world is our mayor living in?” Domb said during Thursday’s Council session. “It’s more than confusing. It’s irrational and, in the long run, dangerous.”

Kenney’s chief of staff, Jim Engler, said the administration is focusing on vaccinating racial minorities by setting up neighborhood clinics and boosting the number of doses going to federally-qualified health centers and the Black Doctor’s COVID-19 Consortium.

“We are interested in continuing to discuss outdoor venues as potential future vaccination sites, but at this point our focus is on expanding capacity of certain indoor venues through both our city program and partnerships with the federal government,” Engler said in a statement.

Officials have spoken about the need to close a vaccine racial gap. To date, about 56% of those inoculated were white, 20% were Black and 4% were Hispanic.

Philadelphia’s population is 42% Black, 41% white and 15% Hispanic, according to census data.

Domb said the Lincoln Financial Field site could invite people by zip code to ensure equity. He has also suggested that the Black Doctor’s COVID-19 Consortium would run the clinic.

All other cities with more than 1 million residents, including those with large Black and brown populations, have already been using stadiums or are planning to, he said, adding that, in some cases, those facilities are in majority white areas or on the outskirts of the city.

“When you control the vaccine supply and distribution, as we suggest at the Linc, you can enforce equity in distribution,” Domb said.

The stadium resolution overwhelmingly passed Council in a voice vote.

Council President Darrell Clarke, in a rare move, temporarily stepped down as chair during the virtual meeting to offer his thoughts on the legislation.

“The personalization of this issue, I just don’t think is productive,” he said. “We have to work together because this is too important to get into this back and forth.”

Councilwoman Helen Gym also said she was uncomfortable supporting the resolution, especially given it was introduced and voted on in one day.