Concern Grows Over FEMA Vaccination Site In Philadelphia Due to Alleged Racial Gaps

Photo courtesy Hakan Nural, Unsplash

As the Philadelphia vaccination rate increases, the racial gap of who is receiving the vaccines is also widening.

In the city, whites currently have the highest vaccination rates among other racial groups with11.9 percent of white Philadelphians have been vaccinated compared to the 6.4 percent of Black Philadelphians. In addition, there is a geological disparity (what does this mean?) for 331,000 of residents who registered for the vaccine.

Additionally, Latino populations within the North Philadelphia area and Kensington make up 7 percent of the vaccination registrations. It is the lowest rate in the city. Zip codes in Center City represent 55 percent of the vaccination registration according to the census data.

The statistics also show that, 3 out of 10 people in richer areas of downtown have already received their first doses. Reasons for the disparity in vaccination rates include transportation issues, language barriers, and suburban residents claiming those allotted dosage slots. 

In a bid to address this issue, the administration of Mayor Jim Kenney has made it their priority to open clinics in poverty ridden neighborhoods.

Health Department spokesperson James Garrow told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “We remain committed to improving equity and have been consistently adapting our approach as vaccine supply increases.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) opened a mass site at the Pennsylvania Convention center five weeks ago to address this issue.

“It’s crazy, I lived in the Philadelphia area all of my life and I didn’t know FEMA was a thing until last week,” 21-year-old Northeast Philadelphian Tinieya Whaley said.

“I don’t feel seen by our Mayor, he doesn’t care about Black people,” she continued.

The Pennsylvania Convention center increased the presence of  helping closing the racial gap in vaccination rates in Philadelphia. Although, in the first week of opening of the mass site only 13 percent doses were given to Black residents, 30 percent of white, Latino and Asian residents were all given greater shares of the vaccination.

 Asian residents have also seen an uptick of vaccination rates. The Philadelphia FEMA opened up near Chinatown, and since then has increased from 6 percent in February to 18 percent mid-March.

“We have a family friend in pharmacy who sent us a link and we signed up,” South Philadelphian Aylen Phammorah said.

“It was pretty quick and surprisingly efficient. It was worked by the military so a military nurse gave me the shot,” Phammorah’s mother Samantha said. 

Esperanza health center in North Philly partnered with the city to help sign up people for vaccines at the FEMA site.

The Department of Health states they will continuously prioritize residents of under vaccinated communities when sending out invitations to make appointments.