CEO running Philly's once-largest vaccination site accused of taking doses home
The 22-year-old CEO of Philly Fighting COVID, a group that ran the city’s biggest Covid-19 vaccination site, has been accused of taking home vaccines designated for public use after a host of other missteps that prompted Philadelphia to terminate its partnership with the group.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner on Tuesday acknowledged reporting from public radio station WHYY, saying allegations that PFC’s CEO Andrei Doroshin took home unused vaccines for personal use after a particularly disorganized day were “concerning.”
WHYY reported that people who had appointments were turned away Saturday, but there was still a stock of vaccines left at the end of the day.
Katrina Lipinsky, a nurse who was on site that day, told WHYY that Doroshin went home with 10-15 vaccines along with CDC record cards.
Doroshin did not respond to requests for comment from NBC News regarding accusations that he had taken home vaccine doses.
PFC administered 6,757 vaccine doses for the city, according to the Department of Public Health. But 6,950 doses were provided to Philly Fighting COVID, NBC Philadelphia reported, meaning 193 remain unaccounted for.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday that any leftover vaccine doses should have been returned to the city, calling the allegations “very disturbing,”
He said that “in retrospect,” it was a mistake to partner with the group.
Three weeks ago, the city’s Department of Public Health announced their “unique public/private partnership” with Philly Fighting COVID, according to NBC Philadelphia, and urged residents to pre-register for vaccination on the group’s website.
The city and the group together were running a mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and the relationship was covered by national media, including NBC News.
On Monday night, however, the department said in a statement that it had decided to end the relationship after learning that PFC had changed “its corporate status” to for-profit and had updated its data policy “in a way that could allow the organization to sell data collected through PFC’s pre-registration site.”
James Garrow, the department’s director of communications, told NBC News on Tuesday that the group had actually changed its status to for-profit in December but only told the city it was considering such a change in passing during a January conversation.
Garrow said the group had a contract with the city for Covid-19 testing through Jan. 31, but had unexpectedly suspended testing.
PFC also updated its data policy on its website Monday. The new policy says it will not sell users’ personal data. It does say, however, that it “may share Your information with Our business partners to offer You certain products, services or promotions.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also called on residents Tuesday to file complaints if they believed they had been “misled” by PFC.
“These allegations are serious,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Taking advantage of people and their privacy under the guise of serving as a nonprofit is not only unethical — it can also be against Pennsylvania law.”
PFC published a statement from Doroshin, a 22-year-old Drexel University graduate student, on its website Tuesday afternoon, saying, “We never have and never would sell, share, or disseminate any data we collected as it would be in violation of HIPAA rules.”
Doroshin added that PFC shifted to a for-profit company, “so that we could expand our operations team and accelerate the vaccine distribution. … We never hid our intentions with the city and were making the change for good reasons.”
He also said that the group halted testing because it did not have the resources to run both vaccination and testing clinics and “made a choice to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, as we believe that is what will help end this pandemic.”
The group, which began as volunteers 3D printing PPE for essential workers when it was in short supply, said it was able to test more than 20,000 people “in neighborhoods with inequitable access to quality healthcare.”
“We are a bunch of nerds, engineers, and scientists that have come together to fight this pandemic,” said the group’s “team” website page, which has since been taken down but can still be accessed.
A statement from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health said it would be in contact with people who received their first vaccine dose through PDC to help them set up second dose appointments elsewhere.