For some reason the city of Philadelphia decided to partner with a young startup to manage the details of rollout of the covid-19 vaccine. What could go wrong? How about the company’s 22-year-old CEO stealing away with doses to vaccinate his young friends the same day the company turned a slew of vulnerable patients away.
Days after calling the accusation “baseless,” Andrei Doroshin, a 22-year-old graduate student at Drexel University and the CEO of Philly Fighting COVID, owned up to the accusation during an interview with Today on Thursday, making myriad desperate excuses along the way. “The doses were about to expire,” said Doroshin. “We called everybody we knew, every single person... I stand by that decision.” Sure.
Of course, Doroshin is not medically qualified to administer vaccinations. He did it anyway.
This was on January 23, the same day Philly Fights COVID turned away countless people standing in line for their scheduled vaccinations. The group said they overbooked. “Seniors were left in tears after finding that appointments they’d made through a bungled sign-up form wouldn’t be honored,” the Washington Post reports.
Naturally, it gets worse. From the Washington Post (emphasis ours):
A registered nurse who volunteered with the group categorized it as a “disaster of an operation.” Katrina Lipinsky told the Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY that she wasn’t asked for her medical credentials before she began administering vaccine doses, and that plenty of unused doses were left over after seniors were turned away on Saturday. She alleged that she saw Doroshin place between 10 and 15 of those doses in his bag and take them with him when he left.
The 22-year-old CEO attended a small gathering with friends that night, according to WHYY, and a photo that circulated on Snapchat appeared to show him “getting ready to administer an unspecified syringe” to an individual in a private home.
“In retrospect, we wish we hadn’t worked with that organization,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley told Today.
The city had reason enough to trust the group in the beginning. Founded in 2020, the group of graduate students—largely engineers and scientists—earned respect in the early days of the pandemic after they distributed PPE they made with a 3D printer, helping to alleviate the shortage of protective gear in the city’s hospitals. They later worked with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to facilitate covid-19 tests to over 20,000 people living in the city’s underserved areas.
When it came to vaccinations, Philly Fighting COVID wanted to approach the rollout with “innovation” in mind. Patients registered effortlessly online before arriving at the mass community vaccination site that ran like a factory, with nurses filling syringes and administering shots as if on an assembly line. “We took the entire model and just threw it out the window,” Doroshin told Today in an interview just one week before shit hit the fan.
This typical, presumptuous startup bro speak that, perhaps, should have given the city pause. But with the covid-19 crisis continuing to plague great swaths of the country, it’s clear that the city was desperate enough to leave a bunch of 20-something-year-olds in charge of a massive public health effort.
The group managed to deliver the first round of the covid-19 vaccine to 7,000 people. Now, 7,000 people are left wondering if they’ll even get the vital second dose.