I don’t pretend the know the ins and outs of how Philly Fighting COVID, which seems to have been an after school extracurricular activity, became Philadelphia’s No. 1 supplier of COVID testing, and then vaccine. Some of it was explained in an Inquirer story that had several notable points.
First, you have to ask yourself how a startup headed by a 22-year-old with no medical credentials got a city contract.
CEO Andrei Doroshin was not a doctor, but you’d think he would have business credentials that were reviewed by the city and the City Council clown car.
But that didn’t happen.
Takeaway No. 1: The Inquirer, WHYY and Billy Penn asked the questions, did the research and got the answers the city did not. So, yes, this is one reason we all benefit from a strong, nosy and independent press. Without them, Philly Fighting COVID might still be steaming along.
Takeaway No. 2: Philadelphia government is often inept and/or corrupt and there are no consequences for failure. City Health Thomas Farley admitted the partnership with Philly Fighting COVID was “a mistake,” and Mayor Jim Kenney demanded answers — in 30 days — but meanwhile stands behind Farley, as he stands by another one of his appointees, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, who was roundly criticized for ineptitude in handling the George Floyd protest/riots last year.
Working for Kenney means you can say you’re sorry — and that’s enough. No punishment, no demerits. And with this record of appointments, Kenney thinks he is suitable for higher office, as has been rumored?
Takeaway No. 3: The Inquirer can turn any story into something that “threatens Black and brown communities,” as a headline in the print edition said, with the flimsiest of connections.
Any normal person can see this as a story in which the average person may be victimized, by the sale of personal data, which Philly Fighting COVID denies it had done. There was no complaint about the testing it had done, nor about the vaccine it administered, with two asterisks: 1- Four doses were given to friends of the CEO (because the doses were about to expire and they would have been thrown away, they say).
2- Testing was done for family members at the home of City Councilman Bobby Henon, because they supposedly went to a testing site and found it closed.
Questionable, but not criminal.
“The city has a legal and moral obligation to be good steward of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. That includes rigorous vetting of partners in the vaccine program,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, quoted in the story. And he is correct.
He’s also correct when he says, “Episodes like this sow increased distrust and could be harmful to the overall goal of vaccinating the entire population.”
The “entire population” is inclusive, it includes everyone, but the Inquirer could not leave it alone. It just had to amplify through the lens of race.
“The incident ‘reinforces’ mistrust that already existed among marginalized communities, said Drexel social epidemiologist Sharrelle Barber.”
As had already been reported, it “reinforces” mistrust in all communities. Yes, the Black experience includes having been used as medical guinea pigs in the past. That happened, there is no denying it.
But there is nothing racist in how Philly Fighting COVID was chosen or how it operated, so why create one?
Something more pertinent to me, but written off in one paragraph, is the city’s relationship to the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium that is vaccinating in the Black community. The city didn’t partner with the Black doctors. Why?
If you are looking for a racial angle, that one seems ripe for exploration.