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COVID In Philadelphia: Health Commissioner Says 'It Wasn't Good For Us To Have Partnership' With Philly Fighting COVID

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The City of Philadelphia has suddenly cut ties with Philly Fighting COVID, a group that had been running the city's largest coronavirus vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. There are allegations that the group misused vaccines and there are also concerns about the safety and privacy of personal information from tens of thousands of people who signed up with the group.

The city calls the allegations disturbing.

"I do understand why people are upset with that. We were very upset as well, that's why we've terminated the relationship," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. "Obviously, in retrospect, this organization, it wasn't good for us to have a partnership with that organization."

Philly Fighting COVID had been one of the largest vaccine providers in the city, giving doses to thousands at the Convention Center.

The city abruptly terminated its relationship when the group switched from nonprofit status to for-profit, enabling it to sell personal information gathered from tens of thousands of people who registered on its website expressing interest in getting the COVID vaccine.

"The organization is saying they have no intention of selling that information. They haven't done that yet," Dr. Farley said. "We're working with our law department to see if there's any way to make sure that doesn't happen."

There are also allegations that Philly Fighting COVID misappropriated vaccine, which is also now being investigated.

The city says it's guaranteeing that the thousands of people who received their first dose of vaccine at the Convention Center will get their second.

Andrei Doroshin is the Drexel University graduate student who started Philly Fighting COVID. They first created face shields, then expanded to COVID testing, and onto providing thousands of vaccinations at the Conventions Center.

The group described itself as college kids wanting to help out. Eyewitness News health reporter Stephanie Stahl questioned Dr. Farley why it was a good idea to enter a partnership with Philly Fighting COVID and entrust them with thousands of doses of vaccine.

"I can understand why people would be concerned about that," the health commissioner responded. "In retrospect, we should have been more careful with this organization."

Doroshin issued a statement on Twitter apologizing for a mistake in their privacy policy, saying the information will not be shared.

"We are grateful for the Health Department and the opportunity provided. We understand that there have been legitimate inquiries into our privacy policies. There was language in our privacy policy that was problematic and as soon as we became aware of it, we removed it. I apologize, for the mistake in our privacy policy. We never have and never would sell, share, or disseminate any data we collected as it would be in violation of HIPAA [sic] rules," Doroshin said.

People who received the vaccine from Philly Fighting COVID or signed up with them are being advised to register online with the city health department.


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