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With direct supply from the federal government, Philadelphia has vaccinated 1.3% of its 1.5 million residents. 

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

While most cities rely on state authority to determine COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans, Philadelphia receives its vaccine supply directly from the federal government, giving the city more freedom.

This structure allows Philadelphia to depart from the state’s vaccination schedule to account for the city's population, which includes more people of color and low-income residents than elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Billy Penn reported. A central aspect of Philadelphia's plan is including people under 75 years old with certain health conditions and some essential workers in phase 1B, when they would be vaccinated in phase 1C under state guidelines.

“This is one way for us to address the racial disparity of [COVID-19] mortality here in Philadelphia,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said at one of the city’s weekly briefings.

The medical conditions the city is classifying under phase 1B include conditions that are common in people of color and in low-income residents, Farley explained.  

The altered vaccine schedule was determined by the health department's Vaccine Advisory Committee, which is comprised of 40 medical experts including four from Penn.

Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago, New York, and San Antonio, are the only five United States cities in which health departments are responsible for creating their own distribution plans, Billy Penn reported. These cities have historically run effective immunization programs, allowing them to build strong relationships with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Farley told Billy Penn. 

The city receives 10,000 first doses of each of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines per week, which they then distribute to partner institutions including hospitals, pharmacies, and urgent care centers, Billy Penn reported.

Philadelphia has now fully vaccinated 1.3% of the population, which is slightly higher than the 1.0% of the population that the state has vaccinated, Billy Penn reported

Both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania broadened vaccine eligibility requirements on Tuesday, making people 65 and older in Pennsylvania and some frontline workers and people 75 and older in Philadelphia eligible for the vaccine, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.