Covid-19 Vaccine vials are opened every day, but sometimes, people don’t show up for appointments. That vaccine must still be administered within hours or it expires. That’s why, after wrapping up his eight-hour shift at the Family Practice and Counseling Network Abbottsford-Falls office, nurse practicioner Tarik Khan rushes to his car with syringes full of the coronavirus vaccine.
He has only six hours to get them into the arms of some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable residents — shots that could mean the difference between health and hospitalization. But if the doses expired, Khan would have to throw them away. To him, a wasted vaccine is a sin.
In Philadelphia, the Department of Public Health recommends that providers give leftover doses to eligible people who happen to still be at a clinic as it closes, or to anyone nearby. Some providers have a standby list or put out calls on social media. But there’s no established system for pairing leftovers with residents who are homebound.
Efforts for mobile coronavirus vaccine clinics have increased in recent weeks to reach the city’s estimated 7,400 homebound residents. But Khan is frustrated that so many seniors are still waiting. He knows this night’s 10 doses were nothing compared to the more than half a million who have been partially or fully vaccinated in the city. But he sees that for those he visits, the result feels life-altering.
Khan spends hours most nights rushing around the city, delivering leftovers to people in need of a first dose or bringing scheduled second shots to those he has visited before. A wrong turn or a traffic jam might lead to a late dinner or a missed meeting. For Khan, it could render his vaccine worthless.
His last stop was after a 38-minute trek to far Northeast Philadelphia. “Come on in!” Kathleen Fossett said after Khan knocked. He had seven minutes to vaccinate Fossett’s brother, Francis McGuire, 55, who has intellectual disabilities, and her husband, Frank, 65, who only has one lung.
Frank was first. Then, McGuire came down the stairs and sat in front of the TV showing the Phillies trailing the Mets 2-0. He looked away as Khan jabbed the needle into his arm. The Phillies scored two runs. They would score three more while Khan waited to make sure everyone felt OK. “You walk in and all this happens!” Frank said.
As of 9:58 p.m., all 10 of the excess doses in Khan’s supply had been safely administered.
Khan left the Fossett home at 10:15 p.m. and drove another 45 minutes back to his own. Once through the door, he slipped off his shoes, splashed cold water onto his face, and crawled onto the floor with his cat, Theodore.
Tomorrow, he would do it all again.