Not long ago here at Coors Field, anticipation hung in the air ahead of a baseball game. This past weekend, the Denver stadium hosted something much more serious.
“I’m thrilled,” said one woman. “Been waiting for this for what, four months now?”
A giant parking lot became a conveyor belt for health care workers and those 70 years of age and over as they received a COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine shot without leaving their cars.
“We aim high when we set goals and the goal was 10,000 in a weekend so that’s what you’re seeing today,” said Sarah White, UCHealth’s Senior Director of Innovation and System Project Management.
The hospital system staged the two-day, by-appointment-only mass vaccination event with just two weeks’ notice.
“This would not work with walk-in, first come first served as we’ve seen in other states where it’s really been bedlam,” said Dr. Richard Zane, UCHealth’s Chief Innovation Officer.
Instead this was a calibrated operation. Vehicles were funneled into certain lanes.
“They then drive forward to a very large registration tent where they check-in and their name and date of birth is confirmed,” Zane said. “They’re then waved forward to a vaccination tent… They are vaccinated. After they’re vaccinated they have a band-aid put on their vaccination site.”
They’re then directed to a separate area where they’re monitored for possible allergic reactions.
“It’s a privilege to get this and hope that many more people can get it,” said Jeanette Egan, one vaccine recipient.
Many have in recent days in places like Boston, New York, even Disneyland in California. Mass vaccinations are a key part of the Biden administration’s strategy as it strives to inoculate at least 100 million Americans in the president’s first 100 days in office. Until now these large efforts weren’t really a viable option since vaccine supply was so unpredictable. They still aren’t the full answer to achieving total protection of the population, so-called herd immunity.
Pop-clinics geared to more remote communities and the more vaccine-hesitant remain critical to that effort.
Specific zip codes were targeted when invitations to the vaccination effort went out. Interpreters were also on hand.
“It’s important to let people know that even though you don’t speak English we’re here to help you regardless,” said Lizbeth Lubelski, a Spanish language interpreter.
It took sophisticated modeling and 175 employees to pull off the two-day event.
“That’s anywhere from our runners to our pharmacists to our vaccinators, our registrars, our flaggers,” White said. “We have real time data that we’re looking at every five minutes and that’s allowing us to make adjustments where we need to… We hope that through all the different vaccination events… we’re able to hit those targets that we’re setting as a nation and get through this as quickly as possible.”
The fight against the pandemic is a numbers game. This weekend’s vaccine recipients will be back in three weeks for their second and final dose.
“Getting vaccinated is not just an individual choice for your own health but it’s also a societal obligation,” Zane said.
One that many who are looking for freedom from isolation are happy to fulfill.
“I would say go do it,” said Carol Cartwright, a vaccine recipient.
“I think it’s going to reduce everybody’s anxiety a lot to feel like we have a little bit more protection,” said Jacquie Cartwright, her daughter.