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70% of adults in the City of Philadelphia have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Credit: Max Mester

The City of Philadelphia has reached a significant milestone — 70% of adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Nearly 56% of Philadelphia adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week. As of June 24, 775,091 Philadelphians have been fully vaccinated and 963,296 have received their first doses.

“We will not be satisfied until all eligible Philadelphians get this lifesaving vaccine,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told the Inquirer, noting that he was pleased that Philadelphia reached 70% before July 4 — the date President Joe Biden set as the goal to have 70% of the country vaccinated with at least one dose.

According to the Inquirer, the state of Pennsylvania reached the 70% mark nearly one month before the City of Philadelphia.

Health experts have emphasized the importance of receiving the second dose of the vaccine to be protected from emerging variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant — also known as B.1.617.2 — which has caused spikes in cases in the United Kingdom and Portugal, the Inquirer reported.

According to The New York Times, the Delta variant is responsible for 20% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States and is believed to be the most transmissible variant yet.

The City of Philadelphia is shifting from mass vaccination sites to smaller close-to-home clinics in order to get more residents vaccinated by meeting them where they feel most comfortable, the Inquirer reported. The shift to smaller clinics, in addition to incentives such as free tickets to sports games, has boosted vaccination rates in Philadelphia, whose vaccination rates previously lagged behind surrounding counties.

The City of Philadelphia also partnered with Penn to implement the “Philly Vax Sweepstakes” — which will award 36 vaccinated Philadelphia residents with prizes of up to $50,000 — to incentivize individuals from residential areas with low vaccination rates to get their shots.

During the sweepstakes, there will be three dates — June 20, July 5, and July 18 — on which 12 winners will be randomly selected. On each date, half of the winners will be selected from one of the zip codes with the lowest vaccination rates.

Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions Katy Milkman, one of the project leaders of the Sweepstakes, wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that 19133 is the next zip code from which they will choose winners, adding that residents of the zip code have a 60-times better chance of winning the cash prizes.

“We need to reach underserved communities,” Milkman wrote. “That’s part of why our sweepstakes gives extra priority to zip codes that have low [vaccination] rates, which have generally struggled more during this pandemic.” 

Although incentives have helped improve vaccination rates, racial disparities in vaccine distribution have contributed to low vaccination rates in parts of the city, the Inquirer reported. White residents are the largest group to have received the first dose of the vaccine, while Hispanic and Black residents make up the second and third largest groups, respectively.

“The [COVID-19] vaccine is not the only area where African Americans and Latinos in Philadelphia have poorer outcomes,” James Garrow, communications director of the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health, told the Inquirer. “That’s the state of what health care delivery is in this country. We live in a society where communities of color are not valued as much by the establishment.”