PHOENIX — It may be a practice run but those at a future drive-thru vaccination site near Loop 101 and I-17 Friday were all business.
HonorHealth went through the critical motions at a site where thousands of doses of the coronavirus vaccine are soon to be injected into the arms of frontline workers.
“There are a lot of pieces that go into the logistics of this, from when the parked cars pull in, to when they get directed to a lane to when they get registered, to getting vaccinated, waiting and exiting,” said Lyndsey Cunningham, director of ambulatory quality improvement.
Every step of the process is timed down to the second in a search for inefficiencies that can be ironed out prior to the vaccine's arrival.
Hospital systems have been told to prepare to begin administering it to phase one A population as early as December 15.
The vaccines will be stored in a secure location on site, inside six massive subzero freezers. They’ll keep the vaccine around minus 80 degrees Celsius with enough room inside each to store thousands of doses.
“That vaccine is stored within a secure room, that secured room is stored within a secure building, that secure building is on a secure location of honor health, in addition, we’ll have other security measures, surveillance cameras,” said Todd Larson, Vice President of workplace and public safety.
Donna Jackson is one of dozens of volunteers playing the part of a patient for the 85 or so site employees for the practice run-through.
“For the frontline workers this is extremely important because they have worked tirelessly and are exposed much more than the rest of us,” said Jackson.
“It's really to anticipate any issues we might have with traffic flow in and out of the event, and to give people a chance to practice what they’ll be doing that day,” said Dr. John Pope, chief medical officer for HonorHealth.
Once patients receive the vaccine, they’ll pull their car into an observation area where they’ll be monitored by healthcare workers for fifteen minutes for possible adverse effects.
State health officials say the initial supply of the vaccine is just under 400,000 doses by the end of the year. But how many each drive-thru site receives is still being calculated.
“We will adjust the size and scope of the event depending on how many doses we receive, so if we receive a ton of them, we’re ready to run this event up to 10 to 15 days,” said Cunningham.
The hope is to vaccinate more than 1,000 people every day once up and running. She says it’s training events like Friday’s that will ensure all goes to plan.
Healthcare workers and first responders eligible for the first round of vaccines will use an app called Twistle, developed by HonorHealth to start the process.
“It’s an app where employees or first responders and others that are up first, they’ll answer a series of questions on their job role and amount of exposure,” said Dr. Pope. “Based on that we prioritize from highest risk down and then as we get doses, they get another email to go into our electronic medical record and schedule their two doses of vaccine. After they get each dose, we’re monitoring them on a pathway to their cell phone about side effects and supporting them anyway we need to after the vaccine.”
So how willing are frontline healthcare workers and those that work around vulnerable residents in assisted living facilities to be among the first to get this new vaccine?
At Quail Park at Morrison Ranch, staff tell us this is the light at the end of the tunnel. The facility recently had to go into lockdown again due to new cases of COVID-19 surfacing in the community.
Dawn Milburn, a spokeswoman for the facility who also works directly with staff and residents, tells us she plans to be among the first in line as soon as the vaccine is available.
"Every day I just pray I don't bring it into my residents. I take all of the precautions, but nothing is fool-proof," said Milburn.
During a recent staff meeting, Milburn said they learned Chandler-Gilbert community college will be getting 36,000 doses of the vaccine to distribute to hospital staff, skilled nurses, and those working in long term care and assisted living facilities.
According to Milburn, this would be by appointment only, and it could happen as early as December 16. She added that every single one of their staff members planned to get the vaccine. It was not being made mandatory, but they had not heard from anyone who had raised concerns about not wanting to get the vaccine at their facility.
"It is in the back of my mind that this is a new vaccine, but every single side effect or risk that I have heard about so far does not outweigh the risk of getting COVID and bringing it into my facility and exposing all of the vulnerable people I am around here," said Milburn.