PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For the first time, FEMA is providing COVID-19 vaccine shots to people without appointments in addition to those who are scheduled to get shots. Supplies are improving and a growing number of people are getting vaccinated, but there are still issues with distribution and many people are still struggling to get a shot.
People were lined up early in the dark outside of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on the first day of the vaccine being available to people without an appointment.READ MORE: Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct Involving Ocean City Beach Patrol Members Under Investigation
“We got here at 5 a.m. this morning,” Lillian Roche of North Philadelphia said. “I just wanted to make sure that my mom got vaccinated today.”
For a week, FEMA will offer vaccines at the Convention Center to people with and without appointments from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Pennsylvania National Guard is now on site with Marines and sailors to help support the operation.
“The City of Philadelphia is turning folks away who are not Philadelphia residents,” Charles Ellison with FEMA said. “The mission of this clinic is to get shots in the arms of Philadelphians who want it, so we ask residents of elsewhere to look into your county’s public health department.”
The 6,000 daily doses being supplied at the Convention Center will only go to people who are eligible in Phase 1A and 1B and those who live in 22 under-vaccinated zip codes.READ MORE: Multiple Faiths Joining Forces To Combat Philadelphia's Rising Gun Violence
“A relief,” Lisa Kennedy of West Philadelphia said. “It’s just a little protection. I mean you know, they got these other strains, ain’t no telling what’s gonna happen, but it’s a lot of relief.”
Vaccine distribution in Philadelphia operates separately from the rest of Pennsylvania. The surrounding counties have been struggling with the state, claiming they’re not getting a fair share of vaccines. But that supply line has improved slightly.
“With this increase in vaccine we are ready to open our third mass vaccination site in Willow Grove near the mall,” Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chair Dr. Valerie Arkoosh said.
That will happen on Friday with the three Montgomery County sites providing about 1,500 doses a day, but that’s still nowhere enough to cover the 127,00 people in phase 1A still waiting for vaccine.
“With the number of people on our list and our current vaccine supply, we estimate we will be booking four to five months out for appointments,” Arkoosh said.MORE NEWS: 2 Mothers, Babies Rushed To Hospital After Being Rescued From Burning Frankford Apartment Building, Officials Say
Arkoosh said the number of COVID cases in Montgomery County continues to go down and is now steadily under 5% positivity, which means the virus is no longer spreading. But there are now 24 confirmed cases of the U.K. variant, so it’s still important to take precautions.