The City of Philadelphia opened its first city-run vaccination clinic Wednesday morning at Grand Yesha Ballroom in Point Breeze, targeting an area of the city disproportionately composed of ethnic minorities who are less likely to have received doses of the virus.
“It’s been over a year since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed here in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Jim Kenney at a news conference for the event. “Yesterday marked the anniversary of when many restrictions went into place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Since then the City of Philadelphia has prioritized getting the vaccine and other resources to our communities of color, which we know have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. Today, we are really excited to open the first city-run vaccination clinic in South Philadelphia here at the Grand Yesha Ballroom.”
City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson called Yesha Ministries Worship Center, which runs the ballroom across the street, the “cornerstone” of the Point Breeze community.
“It’s very fitting that this church, which is the cornerstone here in Point Breeze, South Philadelphia, is on the forefront and making sure that people are coming out and getting vaccinated,” he said. “[It’s important] we address the issue of health disparities and making sure that particularly black and brown people are vaccinated equally across the board … It’s critically important that sites like these are in the core of the community.”
According to city health commissioner Tom Farley, the clinic planned on vaccinating roughly 350 people on its first day between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. He said that community vaccine sites were important because travel can often be an issue for residents who want the vaccine.
“The Center City vaccination center is doing very well, vaccinating some 6,000 people per day, but … not everyone wants to go there,” Farley said of the vaccination site run by FEMA at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. “The travel to the convention center is a bit of a barrier. We need everybody to be vaccinated so we want to reduce all those barriers possible. As a complement to the Center City vaccination center, we are doing these clinics in communities across the city.”
Farley told reporters that the best way to get vaccinated at community vaccination clinics like the one at Yesha is to schedule an appointment, which can be done either by visiting phila.gov/vaccineinterest or calling 311. However, if there happens to be open appointments on the day of vaccinations, vaccination centers may accept walk-ups so vaccine doses don’t go to waste.
“We have found that in some of our community clinics that there are open appointments,” he said. “We don’t want this opportunity to go to waste, so for some of our community clinics where we have vacant appointments we have taken walk-ups.”
Walk-ups, Farley said, are managed on a “clinic by clinic basis.”
According to Johnson’s office, his staff 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.”