Mayor Jim Kenney and health commissioner Tom Farley announced the addition of five new City-run mass vaccination sites throughout the city, two of which are located in South Philly. The addition comes just one week after four South Philly elected officials – City Councilman Mark Squilla, state Sen. Nikil Saval and state Reps. Elizabeth Fiedler and Regina Young – signed a letter requesting more vaccination sites in South Philly.
The two locations are the Edward O’Malley Athletic Association at 144 Moore St. and the Grand Yesha Ballroom at 2308 Snyder Ave.
Fiedler, who spearheaded the effort for the site at EOM Athletic Association, said she was “glad” the city was adding the vaccination sites.
“I continue to hear from older adults in our neighborhood who are unable to travel, and many more people who currently qualify but who don‘t have internet access, need additional language support, or who don’t know the process to sign up,” she said in an emailed statement to SPR. “It’s on their behalf that I’ve been calling for the city to improve vaccine access right here in South Philly and will continue to do so. This site is an important step in the right direction but it’s clear much more needs to be done to increase access and save lives!”
Both locations are scheduled to open the week of March 15.
According to City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, his office had been working on turning the Grand Yesha Ballroom into a community vaccine site for months.
“We’re in the middle of a health pandemic and part of addressing the issue is making sure many of my constituents have the ability to get vaccinated,” said Johnson. “The site is accessible for people who live in Point Breeze, Grays Ferry and West Passyunk. But it’s also in a location that’s well known in the community as well.”
Saval called the addition of the vaccination sites “important and timely.”
“These sites will be lifelines that help connect seniors, people with serious medical conditions or with limited mobility, and front-line and essential workers with this lifesaving treatment,” he said. “I’m grateful to my colleague in the House, Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, for raising the cry on behalf of our constituents, and grateful to the city for helping to meet their needs. I will continue to push for expanded access throughout my district.”
“Offering another opportunity to address the needs of our community is priceless,” said Young in her statement. “Together, great things can happen if we collaborate and once again, keep community in mind when we say we are addressing the needs.”
“These new sites are one more aspect of our concerted effort to get the vaccine in neighborhoods and communities with the greatest need,” said Kenney in a press release. “We are confident that in doing so, we can improve the equity of our vaccine distribution efforts and get Philadelphia one step closer to defeating this virus.”
Squilla said he was “happy” the Kenney administration was working to open up community vaccine sites in South Philly.
“I believe that it is incredibly important,” Squilla added, “that we have vaccination access sites in every single neighborhood in our city to be able to reach every resident.”
The city also recently announced the creation of its COVID-19 Vaccine Champion training program, which trains residents to be “trusted messenger[s] trained to deliver accurate information about the vaccine to their peers.”
In partnership with the city Department of Public Health, Philly Counts, which was originally created to support the 2020 Census, will utilize its existing network of staff and volunteers to provide COVID-19 outreach, education, organizing and canvassing efforts to ensure Philadelphia’s most vulnerable residents are able to learn about and get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We know that Philadelphians have many valid questions about the COVID vaccine,” said Farley. “These questions won’t be answered by a fact sheet or website. They need to be asked to a person who can be trusted. We’re excited to partner with a group as well respected as Philly Counts to help spread the word and help folks think about getting vaccinated.”
At the end of the training, participants will apply knowledge during the practice session, allowing them to have difficult conversations with other participants and motivate them to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them.
“Vaccine Champions will be part of a growing network that shares critical information to educate the public and increase uptake of the vaccine through a neighbor-to-neighbor strategy. The relationships Philly Counts established with its community partners provide an infrastructure that is being used now to ensure that every Philadelphia resident understands why they should consider being vaccinated,” said Stephanie Reid, executive director of Philly Counts.
The first Vaccine Champion training sessions will take place on Thursday, March 18, and will be available via Zoom in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Individuals can choose the session that works best for them based on language using the list of events available on phila.gov/phillycounts. After Thursday, March 18, additional weekly sessions will be open to the public.