Our most urgent task is getting Philadelphians vaccinated quickly and fairly. But so far, many of those who are at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying of COVID have struggled to get the vaccine. Here are ways we can change that.
Center racial equity in every decision
COVID has made inequality worse, with devastating impact on frontline workers and Black and Latino communities. We cannot delay efforts to reach those Philadelphians who are at highest risk of severe outcomes. Every decision regarding how we distribute vaccines should ensure they are accessible and prioritized for those who need them most.
Everyone is entitled to clear, accessible information about how and when they can access vaccines. We need a citywide communications strategy that meets people where they are, from a one-stop webpage and online graphics to informational bill inserts. Even when information is limited, people need regular and honest updates to prevent panic and misinformation.
Use neighborhood health centers and organizations already working in hard-hit communities
A greater share of our vaccine allocation should go to our public health centers, who are trusted and expert in serving vulnerable communities. We should also increase doses to reputable providers caring for people at high risk who would otherwise struggle to access the vaccine, including the Black Doctor’s COVID consortium. This is one of the simplest ways we can fairly distribute vaccines and target them to the areas in greatest danger.
Require everyone distributing vaccines to have an equity plan
Every organization granted vaccines by the City should commit to concrete strategies to make sure they are distributing it fairly to those who need it most. This can look like hospitals and pharmacies prioritizing eligible patients by the zip codes most at risk of severe outcomes, and making sure vaccination opportunities are at truly accessible locations and times.
Allow people to call for vaccine appointments
Many people do not have reliable or constant access to email, or cannot respond immediately to a scheduling email. There must be options to ensure fair access to people who need to call to set up a vaccination appointment.
Simplify online scheduling
Vaccine providers designated by the City should use a centralized scheduling platform. Fragmented scheduling benefits those with time and resources to seek out opportunities.
Ensure language access
23% of Philadelphians speak a language other than English at home. Our vaccine distribution must ensure access across languages.
Include people with disabilities
People with many serious disabilities are currently left out of Philadelphia’s vaccine distribution categories. They need to be included, and we must ensure that they have equal access — that means sites that are accessible, and inclusion for caregivers.
While vaccines are still far too scarce, clear and reliable information is key to preserving trust and ensuring fairness. We need to regularly report key information about how we are allocating vaccines and to what organizations, our pace of vaccinations, and key geographic and demographic information. We need to be able to clearly see how we are meeting our goals.
Get everyone involved
COVID has clearly shown us that we are in this together. The City should enlist our strong networks of neighborhood and civic leaders as vaccine ambassadors, who can share reliable information and assist others in successfully getting the vaccine.