Philadelphia has severed its relationship with Philly Fighting COVID-19 after its CEO admitted to stealing vaccine doses for friends.
Philly Fighting COVID was awarded a contract from the city to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine despite having no health care experience.
The group’s CEO, 22-year-old graduate student Andrei Doroshin, gained attention when he began 3-D printing free face shields for health care personnel during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. He formed Philly Fighting COVID during the summer, which provided pop-up testing sites. On January 8th, the group teamed up with the city and opened Philadelphia’s largest mass vaccine site.
At the time of the partnership with the city, Philly Fighting COVID was a non-profit but quietly switched to a for-profit company without notifying the city. The purpose of this was to begin billing insurance providers for administering the vaccine doses. Charging Medicare and private insurers for vaccine administering is permitted by the FDA. However, Philly Fighting COVID received the vaccine doses for free.
A former volunteer told news outlet WHYY that the entire plot was a money scheme.
“They were bragging about how rich they were going to get,” a former volunteer told the outlet.
Despite these red flags, the group continued operating. On January 23rd, the vaccination line was backed up for hours after they overbooked vaccine appointments on their website. Many people were turned away after waiting for hours.
That same day, 29-year-old nurse Katrina Lipinsky said that the site ended up with extra vaccines despite turning people away. She says that she witnessed Doroshin place the extra doses into his bag.
“They ended the day with a significant number of unused vaccines,” Lipinsky said. “Andrei walked pretty openly from the vaccine area over to his belongings and packed maybe 10 to 15 in his bag with CDC record cards.”
Hours later, a photo began to spread on Snapchat showing Doroshin administering the vaccine doses to a person inside a private home. After denying the allegation initially, he later admitted during an interview with Today on Thursday that he stole four doses from the site and vaccinated his friends, despite his lack of medical experience. He claims that he gave the doses to his young friends because they were about to expire, and he didn’t want them to go to waste.
“I stand by that decision,” he said Thursday. “I understand that I made that mistake. That is my mistake to carry the rest of my life. But that is not the mistake of the organization,” Doroshin said.
On Monday, their contract with the city was revoked. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley told Today that “in retrospect, we wish we hadn’t worked with that organization.”
Before being shut down, Philly Fighting COVID administered nearly 7,000 vaccine doses. Many who were inoculated are now concerned that they will not be able to receive their second dose.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is now working with the city to look into the allegations against the group.