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‘An Arm and a Leg’: In Vaccinating Philadelphia, A Mix of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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In Philadelphia, the good, the bad and the ugly have all been on vivid display in the covid vaccine rollout.

The Bad comes with a giant serving of gall: For a while, the city put its mass-vaccination program in the hands of Andrei Doroshin, a 22-year-old with no experience in health care but what, from all reports, seemed a healthy interest in making money. It did not go well. In this episode, we get a deep dive from public-radio reporter Nina Feldman, who uncovered the debacle.

The Ugly is systemic racism: When selecting who would run the mass-vaccination program, the city seems to have largely ignored the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, an effective group of licensed, experienced, Black health care professionals led by Dr. Ala Stanford.

“I think we have to look, not just in Philadelphia, but at the deep rooted problem that allows you to look at an organization that has been doing the work and overlooks them primarily for another group that’s unestablished, younger, not led by a physician and white,” said Stanford.

The Good is the work that Stanford and the consortium have been doing, which throws the Bad and the Ugly into stark relief. Since last spring, they’ve been working tirelessly and creatively to address disparities in the care that Black Philadelphians receive for covid-19.

Those disparities include a lack of good vaccine information from trusted sources.

And, a project called The Conversation: Between Us and About Us, hosted by comedian W. Kamau Bell, is working to address them:

We talked with one of the project’s leaders, Dr. Rhea Boyd, author of a recent New York Times essay, Black People Need Better Vaccine Access, Not Better Vaccine Attitudes.

(Disclosure: The project is backed by KFF. KHN, which co-produces “An Arm and a Leg,” is an editorially independent program of KFF.)

Here’s a transcript of this episode.

“An Arm and a Leg” is a co-production of Kaiser Health News and Public Road Productions.

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KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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