Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium is holding a 24-hour COVID-19 ‘vax-a-thon’

People waiting in line to get a COVID-19 test.
People waiting in line to get a COVID-19 test. Photo credit Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium is holding a 24-hour COVID-19 “vax-a-thon.” They’re testing a new model designed to improve access to the vaccine.

“Philly, we’re giving you 24 hours of us to be present to vaccinate you whatever time you need it,” announced Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.

Stanford said the idea for a 24-hour COVID-19 “vax-a-thon” came from community emails complaining that vaccine appointment times conflict with work and/or availability to get transportation to vaccine centers.

To solve the problem, the consortium — thanks to support from Temple University — will provide vaccines on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis from noon Friday, Feb. 19 to noon Saturday, Feb. 20 at the Liacouras Center on North Broad Street.

“So if you get off work, 10, 11 o’clock, you want to come get your shot, we’re here,” Stanford said. “If you have to be at work at 7 in the morning, come to us at 5:30, we are here.”

The consortium encourages individuals to use the 24-hour period to make plans to get older relatives, neighbors and friends the opportunity to get their shot.

She said their goal is to vaccinate at least 2,000 people in 24 hours.

“We usually vaccine 600 to 800 people in six hours,” she said. “We’re hoping for a very robust turn out and if this goes well, we’ll do it again next month.”

In recent days, the Black Doctors had to shut down the vaccine registration on their website after receiving 46,000 requests for the shot, many from individuals outside of Philadelphia.

In order to level the playing field and ensure that communities hit hardest by the virus in infections and death rates — as well as those who have reduced access — get the vaccine, the organization began screening individuals, giving access to those who live in Philadelphia and priority to those who meet the following criteria:

- Residents living in ZIP codes 19119, 19121, 19123, 19124, 19126, 19131, 19132, 19138, 19139, 19140, 19141, 19142, 19143, 19144, 19145, 19146, 19150, 19151, and 19153.

- Those working in 1A professions;

- Those over the age of 75;

- And those ages 18 to 74 who are living with chronic health conditions.

According to the Black Doctors, the identified ZIP codes, clarified with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, are ZIP codes where COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the communities and with low vaccination rates.

These screening criteria are used every day and are not exclusive to the “vax-a-thon” event. Individuals can bring their ID, a utility or cable bill or other proof of residency.

“We unfortunately had folks from outside of the city coming in,” said Stanford on why they implemented the screening criteria. “We just do not want to see the majority of the folks receiving the vaccine going back to communities where the positivity rate is not the highest.”

In order to widen access during the 24-hour event, Stanford said they are working with Esperanza and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation to make sure the Latinx and Asian communities in the city have access to translators.

The consortium was created last April to tackle the racial disparities in COVID-19 infections and death, specifically among African Americans, by bringing testing to underserved neighborhoods.

Since that time, the organization has evolved and is now working to bring access, empathy and action to all residents of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

According to the group, the BDCC has tested over 23,000 patients and vaccinated over 9,000 Philadelphians.