Philadelphia has terminated its partnership with Philly Fighting COVID, a group that ran the city’s biggest Covid-19 vaccination site, after discovering it had changed its corporate status from nonprofit to for-profit, abruptly stopping offering testing, and updated the privacy policy on its vaccination sign up website in a way that could allow for the sale of user data.

Three weeks ago, the city’s Department of Public Health announced a “unique public/private partnership” with Philly Fighting COVID, according to NBC Philadelphia, and urged residents to pre-register for vaccination on the group’s website.

The city and the group together ran a mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and the relationship was publicized by national media, including NBC News.

On Monday night, however, the department said in a statement that it had decided to end the relationship after learning that PFC had changed “its corporate status” to for-profit and had updated its data policy “in a way that could allow the organization to sell data collected through PFC’s pre-registration site.”

James Garrow, the department’s director of communications, told NBC News on Tuesday that the group had actually changed its status to for-profit in December but only told the city it was considering such a change in passing during a January conversation.

Garrow said the group also had a contract with the city for Covid-19 testing through Jan. 31, but had unexpectedly suspended testing.

PFC updated its data policy on its website Monday. The new policy says it will not sell users’ personal data. It does say, however, that it “may share Your information with Our business partners to offer You certain products, services or promotions.”

PFC published a statement from founder Andrei Doroshin, a 22-year-old Drexel University graduate student, on its website Tuesday afternoon, saying, “We never have and never would sell, share, or disseminate any data we collected as it would be in violation of HIPAA rules.”

PFC removed the “problematic” language in its privacy policy “as soon as we became aware of it,” the statement said, and that as the vaccines became available, PFC found it did not have the resources to both run both vaccination and testing clinics and “made a choice to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, as we believe that is what will help end this pandemic.”

Doroshin added that PFC shifted to a for-profit company, “so that we could expand our operations team and accelerate the vaccine distribution…We never hid our intentions with the city and were making the change for good reasons.”

PFC administered 6,757 vaccine doses for the city, according to the Department of Public Health.

The city will now schedule new vaccination clinics so people who received their first doses from PFC at the convention center can receive their second doses elsewhere.

Brenda Breslauer

Brenda Breslauer is a producer with the NBC News Investigative Unit.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here