Andrei Doroshin speaks to the Today Show in Philadelphia, on January 28, 2021. The Today Show
A student who took charge of Philadelphia’s largest vaccination center admitted to taking home doses and giving them to friends.
Andrei Doroshin and his organization Philly Fighting COVID have face allegations of misconduct.
Officials announced that the city was breaking ties with the group, which helped administer thousands of vaccines.
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A 22-year-old college student managing one of Philadelphia’s largest vaccination clinics has admitted to taking home COVID-19 doses and injecting his friends.
Andrei Doroshin, who founded the group Philly Fighting COVID, had been running a mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center until several allegations of misconduct that emerged this week prompted the city to break ties with him.
On Tuesday, a nurse working at the vaccination center claimed on Twitter that she saw Doroshin take home “a Ziplock bag-full of vaccines.”
Read more: Coronavirus variants threaten to upend pandemic progress. Here’s how 4 top vaccine makers are fighting back.
Philly Fighting COVID was also accused of abruptly shutting down centers without any notice or explanation, leaving locals confused and distressed at COVID-19 testing sites that it operated.
In his first television interview since the allegations, Doroshin confirmed to the TODAY Show that he took home four vaccine doses left at the center on January 23.
He also admitted to personally giving the vaccines to four of his friends even though he has no medical qualifications. He is studying neuroscience, according to his LinkedIn profile.
But the 22-year-old defended his decision to take the doses home, saying he didn’t want them to go to waste and that he had called “everybody we knew” to ask if they wanted the vaccine, according to TODAY.
“I stand by that decision,” he continued. “I understand I made that mistake. That is my mistake to carry for the rest of my life. But it is not the mistake of the organization.”
The student confirmed that Philly Fighting COVID was looking to turn a profit eventually but to date has not made any money.
Clarissa Cooper-Nowell (second to right) waits for 15 minutes in the observation area after receiving the coronavirus vaccine at the mass-vaccination center set up by Philly Fighting COVID at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on January 15, 2021. Rachel Wisniewski for The Washington Post via Getty Images
‘They said they were gonna be millionaires’
The 22-year-old CEO founded the start-up Philly Fighting COVID (PFC) nine months ago with a team of fellow college students who had little experience in health care.
According to a now-deleted page on the organization’s website, Doroshin said that PFC “refused to stand idle” during the pandemic and wanted to help in any way possible, WHYY reported.
The group first produced 3D-printed PPE for health care workers but progressed to setting up COVID testing sites across the city with the help of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health.
Most of PFC’s patient-facing staff were pre-med or nursing students at local universities.
At the beginning of the year, Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health expressed interest in the group operating the city’s first mass vaccination center.
According to a WHYY report, when Doroshin practiced his pitch to his team, he told friends: “This is a wholly Elon Musk, shooting-for-the-heavens type of thing.”
One volunteer at PFC told WHYY: “They said they were gonna be millionaires.”
The city gave the group approval, and soon enough, they were vaccinating thousands of people a day.
But weeks into the operation, several troubling signs of mismanagement emerged.
The organization’s sign-up system on their website allowed anyone with a link to make an appointment. It led many people to assume they were eligible for a vaccine, even though the city was only in the early stage of its rollout and was focusing on getting the jab only to health care workers and people over the age of 75.
It also overbooked appointments due to an error on the sign-up page, which resulted in elderly residents coming to the vaccination center and leaving in tears after being turned away.
“Trust is the most important thing we have when giving out the vaccine, and we couldn’t ask Philadelphians to trust an outfit that we no longer trusted,” James Garrow, a spokesman for Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, told CNN on Thursday. “So we immediately ended the relationship.”
During a press conference earlier in the week, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Tom Farley described the allegations as “disturbing.” He said he wished that the city had not partnered with the organization, according to CNN.
“They had what looked like a good plan,” Farley said. “This other information came to light subsequently.”
An estimated 6,800 people received their first vaccine doses from PFC, according to the company. The city’s health department says it is contacting everyone who received those doses to scheduled their second dose with another facility.
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