By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia health officials beat the clock. Hundreds of doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine set to expire on Thursday were given out just in the nick of time.

Also on Thursday, Pennsylvania’s former secretary of health who’s now in the Biden administration visited Philadelphia with words of praise for the vaccine rollout.

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The fear that the vaccine would be wasted did not happen, but it was a big scramble to get shots into arms before it expired. At the same time, the city was hosting a special guest.

Dr. Rachel Levine, the assistant health secretary to President Joe Biden, was at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at a critical time. This is one of several sites around the city distributing the Pfizer vaccine. A big batch of the vaccine was set to expire at 12 p.m. Thursday.

On Tuesday, Philadelphia had 4,000 doses out of the deep freeze and on the clock.

After an urgent push, there were still 900 shots at 9 a.m. Thursday with the clock ticking, and just in time, it was all distributed. The feared waste of vaccines didn’t happen.

“We are shifting from previous challenges in terms of shortages of the vaccine now toward that tipping point where vaccine hesitancy is going to become our more major issue,” Levine said.

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Levine says there is now plenty of vaccine from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. All three vaccines are being distributed at a variety of sites.

“While we still have a long way to go in this fight, we have made really extraordinary progress,” Levine said.

Levine started her Philadelphia visit at the Liacouras Center, run by the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.

“The majority of the folks that we’ve cared for are people of color and we are all striving toward equity,” Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, said. “Dr. Levine being here today reinforces that for us.”

But racial inequities continue in Philadelphia. Only 22% of African Americans have received one dose of vaccine compared to 41% of the white population.

“Health equity is an integral part of our mission,” Levine said.

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To improve vaccination in minority communities, the city is planning more neighborhood sites and in-home vaccinations. Plus, Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium will be kicking off a campaign called “Vaccinate Before You Graduate,” aiming to get more teenagers protected.

Stephanie Stahl