Despite housing some of the most reputed hospitals and medical institutions in the country, Philadelphia appointed a start-up ‘Philly Fighting COVID’, a self-described “group of college kids”, with hardly any health-care experience, to set up and manage the city’s first and largest coronavirus mass vaccination site.
The result was not surprising—a failure of epic proportions. Elderlies were left with teary-eyed when they realised that the forms that they had filled to receive the vaccines won’t be honoured.
The group had discreetly switched to a for-profit model without publicising the change. Besides, it also added changes in privacy policies that would allow it to sell users’ personal data. One of the volunteers alleged that the 22-year-old CEO of the 9-months-old start-up pocketed vaccine doses. Another one claimed it was a free-for-all where vaccines were up for grabs for the volunteers who injected each other and posed for photos.
Philadelphia severs ties with Philly Fighting COVID after allegations of mishandling vaccine distribution surfaces
Now, the city in Pennsylvania has severed ties with the Philly Fighting COVID, saying it has lost trust in the organisation, after a spate of controversial decisions taken by the group and its CEO. It is also being reported that prosecutors are now looking into the “concerning” allegations.
On Monday night this week, the Philadelphia Health Department announced that it is ending its partnership with Philly Fighting COVID after learning that the group had become for-profit and changed its data policy to allow possible sales of users’ information.
The decision to snap ties with Philly Fighting COVID was taken after allegations of mishandled vaccine doses surfaced. Several reports have alleged the group’s bungled handling of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and the lack of health-care experience of the organisation’s executive leaders.
None of the executive team of the organisation held a degree in medical or public health
As per a report published by Philadelphia magazine, the callow group’s “executive team” had not a single person with a medical degree or advanced degree in public health. The CEO of the company, Andrei Doroshin included his experience as teaching at a high school film class, producing videos of people long-boarding and practising parkour, and founding a nonprofit in his resume.
In his interview with “Today”, Doroshin said that his lack of experience in the medical field would help him in thinking differently and come up with out of the box solutions to speed up vaccination process. In yet another interview, Doroshin expressed hope of setting up a McDonald’s -like a franchise and asserted that the best practices of vaccine distribution can go “out of the window”.
The company started drawing suspicion last week after WHYY reported that Philly Fighting COVID had suddenly withdrawn from hosting coronavirus testing clinics in predominantly Black and Latino neighbourhoods. On Saturday, anxiety regarding the city’s largest COVID-19 vaccine centre swelled when senior citizens, who had queued up for hours to be vaccinated at the Pennsylvania Convention Center were turned away because the group had inadvertently permitted far too many people to sign up.
Volunteers for the group accuse CEO Doroshin of taking home left over COVID-19 vaccine jabs
Philly’s leaders openly bragged about how they were going to become rich. A volunteer of the organisation claimed they were going to become millionaires by billing insurance providers for providing COVID-19 vaccines that their organisation got it for free.
According to the nurse who volunteered for the group, the situation was utterly chaotic. The nurse, Katrina Lipinsky, confessed to the media organisations that her medical credentials were not sought or verified by the group before she started administering vaccines. Lipinsky also added that dozens of vaccines were left unused after elderlies were turned away on Saturday.
She also alleged that she saw Doroshin putting 10 to 15 of those doses in his bag and taking them with him when he left. It is being alleged that the CEO of the group attended a small gathering that night and a photo of him administering an unspecified syringe to an unknown person in a private home has emerged.
CEO Doroshin admits taking doses to his home but defends his organisation regarding the privacy updates
Philly Fighting COVID-19 CEO admitted yesterday that he indeed took the vaccine doses home and administered them to his friends. “I understand that I made that mistake. That is my mistake to carry for the rest of my life, but it is not the mistake of the organisation,” Andrei Doroshin told NBC’s “Today” show.
However, the CEO of the company on Tuesday refuted the allegations levelled against his organisation. Doroshin said that the company never has and never would sell, share or disseminate any date collected as it would violate HIPAA rules.
Doroshin also apologised for “any miscommunication”, stating that Philly Fighting COVID switched its focus from testing to vaccine and its intention was never to “cause confusion or harm”. Defending his organisation, Doroshin said his group did not have the resources or the bandwidth to handle both testing and vaccinations at the same time, adding that becoming for-profit was imperative for expanding the organisation.