The Philadelphia healthcare worker spends his off hours bringing soon-to-expire vaccines to the city's most vulnerable residents

By Johnny Dodd and Wendy Grossman Kantor
May 07, 2021 10:00 AM
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tarik khan
Credit: Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP

On any given night, family nurse practitioner Tarik S. Khan can be found racing through the streets of Philadelphia in his 2010 green Subaru, checking the GPS on his phone and trying to locate an address he's scribbled on a piece of paper.

In his backseat, there's a plastic shower caddie filled with gauze, bandages, rubber gloves, hand sanitizer and, most importantly, pre-filled syringes with soon-to-expire doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"My parents always told me that it's a sin to waste something good," says Khan, 42. "And the vaccine is definitely something good."

tarik khan
Credit: Courtesy Tarik Khan

Since February, Khan has been spending his evenings delivering — and administering — leftover doses of the vaccine to more than 200 (and counting) of the city's homebound residents.

"This brings an incredible peace of mind to these individuals, who really have no other way to get their vaccines," says Khan, who uses the shots left over when people fail to show up for appointments at Abbottsford-Falls health center where he works. "They're so relieved that someone would come and bring them this."

Since the start of the pandemic, Khan, whose mother spent decades as an emergency room nurse, has worked and volunteered on the frontlines, testing nearly 1,400 nursing home residents, healthcare workers and first responders for the disease.

"Putting myself in harm's way was scary," says Khan, who grew up in northeast Philadelphia and is working towards his PhD in nursing research. "But that's what nurses do."

tarik khan
Credit: Courtesy Tarik Khan

In addition to his nightly forays delivering what he calls "angel doses," across the city, Khan is determined to expand his one-man home-delivery model to help vaccinate the nation's estimated 2 million homebound residents.

Recently he took part in a six-member virtual panel co-hosted by the White House and the CDC to address the problem.

"The only way out of this pandemic is through these vaccines," says Khan. "They're our escape hatch back to normal."

For more on Tarik Khan, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.