PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — All Philadelphia adult residents are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said Friday. Farley also said all city residents 16 years and older are now eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.
The city was originally scheduled to expand vaccine eligibility to all adults on Monday, but city officials said an abundance of vaccine prompted them to speed up the rollout.READ MORE: Giant Supermarket Chain Opening 4 New Stores In Philadelphia, Hiring 700 Employees
On Friday, Philadelphia joined Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware in opening eligibility to everyone over the age of 16 as vaccine supplies are now outpacing demand.
“We are expanding eligibility to all adults immediately,” Farley said Friday.
The health commissioner moved Philadelphia into Phase 2 of vaccine distribution three days ahead of schedule. Now instead of shortages, there’s an abundance.
“This week we heard from an increasing number of hospitals and pharmacies and our mass vaccination sites that they’re having difficulty filling the vaccination spots,” Farley said. “We don’t want those vaccination slots to go unused.”
Farley said the city remains concerned about city residents 65 years and older. City-run vaccination clinics will be inviting residents 65 and older first, Farley said.
Even with the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and rescheduling appointments, the city still has plenty of vaccine, mainly from Pfizer.
The early days of restricting vaccinations are over.
“We are entering a new phase,” Farley said. “Our task is different. Our task is encouraging people who may be unsure to come in and get vaccinated.”
The city operates separately from the state in vaccine distribution. The city receives about $80,000 doses a week from the federal system and there’s an additional 42,000 shots being given at the two FEMA sites.
The Center City mass vaccination site was expanded for another four weeks on Wednesday. It will be administering the Pfizer vaccine. Farley said the site vaccinated 4,000 Philadelphians on Wednesday and 4,600 people on Thursday. The city said the clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. all weekend.
“The city made the right decision based on how many folks are coming out to take advantage of the walk-up. We have the capability here and at Esperanza. I know several other city sites have the capabilities,” said Charlie Elison with FEMA.READ MORE: Philadelphia Officials Expected To Provide Update On Reopening Timeline Tuesday, Sources Say
Elison says the mass vaccination site at the Convention Center has had doses of vaccine forwarded from locations that had cancelations, and personnel here have had days where they administered 7,500 doses.
The FEMA site is expecting an immediate change in the number of city residents walking through the doors.
“There have been several days where we’ve actually vaccinated more than 6,000 per day and I think if there was a rush here tomorrow, our clinicians, our sailors behind me and our support staff, our Pennsylvania National Guard staff, we’re ready for the rush so please do come out,” Elison said.
The Esperanza Community Vaccination Center reopened on Wednesday after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause. The clinic has switched from the J&J vaccine to Pfizer. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. this weekend.
Both mass vaccination sites are offering walk-up vaccinations, the city said Friday.
Anyone who would like to sign up for an appointment through the city can do so by clicking here.
“We all have an interest in as many people being vaccinated as possible because that protects everybody,” Farley said.
Now that most people who want to be vaccinated have been, officials are confronting vaccine hesitancy. To ease that, the city has new public awareness campaigns and there are still concerns about seniors, who are most vulnerable.
“So, we’re still encouraging our sites to give priority to people over 65,” Farley said.
Even though vaccinations are increasing, so are cases of COVID-19.
“I’m very worried about that high case counts right now,” Farley said. “We’re averaging over 600 cases per day. We have over 500 people in the hospital, so I’m worried people believe the problem is behind us, and it’s not behind us.”
Farley said Friday about 40% of the city has had at least one dose of the vaccine.MORE NEWS: 13-Year-Old Among Injured In Allentown Triple Shooting
CBS3’s Stephanie Stahl and Alecia Reid contributed to this report.