PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For hours Friday, Philadelphia elected officials discussed what led to the city’s partnership with Philly Fighting COVID, and the rollout of the city’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts. Coming under heavy scrutiny by City Council, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley addressed whether or not he should resign.
Multiple officials took questions from City Council during Friday’s hearing, but it was Philadelphia’s health commissioner on the hot seat.READ MORE: 'A Game Changer': CDC Recommends Johnson & Johnson's 1-Dose COVID Vaccine, Paving Way For Distribution To Begin
“One week ago, Mayor [Jim] Kenney sent me a letter to rectify that mistake,” Farley said.
“I know you said earlier that the CDC basically made the selection. Are you saying that the administration had no involvement at all in the selection of this organization?” Councilmember Cindy Bass asked.
“No, not at all,” Farley responded.
“It would be appearance of corruption if it wasn’t for such incompetence,” Councilmember David Oh said.
“The letter the mayor sent last week requested that we do a review of the decision-making process,” Farley said.
City Councilmember Derek Greene referenced the recent resignation of Pennsylvania’s top election official over a mishap and compared that to the controversy with Philly Fighting COVID, asking the health commissioner, “Do you believe that you should be held to the same standard?”
“I believe in the same accountability in the same way that she does. If this happened in the health department, ultimately the responsibility goes to me, and the question then, at this point, is it in the best interest of the City of Philadelphia for me to resign and to have another person step in as health commissioner?” Farley said. “I think I still can contribute, I think I have those skills. However, again, at any point, if the mayor feels, in his own opinion or the advice of anyone else, that I’m not the best choice — if I didn’t have the best skills or my image is not the best one — then he can ask me to resign and I will be happy to do so.”READ MORE: Irv Cross, Former Eagles Star DB And Pioneer Black Analyst, Dies At 81
Philly Fighting COVID administered nearly 7,000 vaccines at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in its first few weeks before the health department cut ties with the group.
City officials say the group changed its terms of service, which would have allowed it to sell patients’ data. The group also did not have a written contract with the city to distribute vaccines, but it instead appears to have done so from a verbal agreement.
“We passed this information on directly to the CDC and they took our word for it. They took our word that we did our due diligence and clearly that was not the case,” Bass said during the hearing.
“I don’t know whether the CDC took our word for it, how they reviewed those documents I can’t speak to that,” said Jim Engler, Kenney’s Chief of Staff.
Philadelphia City Council also asked Kenney to testify at Friday’s hearing. He declined but promised he would answer any questions the council has.
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