Philly launches effort to get COVID-19 vaccine out to communities of color

Charles Seawright speaks after getting his vaccine at Health Center 5
Charles Seawright speaks after getting his vaccine at Health Center 5, with Dr. Tom Farley (L), Council President Darrel Clarke (r) and center staff. Photo credit Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Health Department Wednesday launched its effort to administer the COVID-19 vaccine through community health centers in hopes of getting more people of color vaccinated.

Charles Seawright doesn’t have access to the internet and said he had zero information about how to get vaccinated until his providers at District Health Center 5 called to schedule an appointment.

“I live right nearby, around the corner as a matter of fact. I’ve been here all my life. The health center’s helped me out a lot,” he said.

Philadelphia is just about finished vaccinating the highest priority group — front-line health workers — and found only about 12% of those receiving the vaccine are African-American. Just 3% are Hispanic.

As the city expands to the next group — those over 75 or with underlying conditions — it’s trying for greater equity.

Council President Darrell Clarke said the effort is crucial.

“Communities of color need to have significant access, they need to be prioritized, because unfortunately the disease has prioritized communities of color,” Clarke said.

Health Commissioner Tom Farley said there is some understandable skepticism about the vaccine. That’s why it’s putting an emphasis on giving the shot through a network of 30 community providers, such as Health Center 5 in North Philadelphia.

“Here, they’re vaccinating patients who have been here as patients for years, sometimes for generations. They know the doctors, they know the nurses, they trust them,” Farley said.