June 21, 2021
Quick planning by Health Center staff to vaccinate 2,000+ in UH community
When Dr. Cheryl Person heard that the state of Texas was sending the University of Houston nearly 1,100 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the executive director of the Student Health Center was at home with no water. Two other senior administrative leaders were also without water, and everyone had only recently gotten power back on in the wake of Winter Storm Uri.
But they had mere days to plan a major vaccination clinic on the UH campus, so regardless of the last time any of them had showered, they all jumped on a Zoom call and started planning. “We were all on this call formulating a plan while we were also dealing with our own personal disasters,” Person said. “The timing was not ideal for our team, but we were determined to make it successful.”
That the two-day vaccination clinic ran smoothly is a testament to the hard work and determination of many partners on this project — including volunteers, student center staff, UHPD, Walgreens and the Student Health Center, Person said.
“It’s amazing how incredibly hard working our staff was, to do something this complex, at this scale,” she said. “It was like a ballet. It looks effortless, but the sheer number of person hours that went into it — it’s staggering to think about.”
Over the two-day clinic in early March, Walgreens and the Student Health Center vaccinated 1,097 faculty, staff and students, and those patients will return on March 31 and April 1 for their second shot of the Moderna vaccine.
And they’re doing it again, starting today. The Health Center received another 1,170 doses for a second vaccination clinic, being held today and March 25. This time, they’re ready to fine tune their process to make the clinic even better.
“We have taken the suggestions of staff and volunteers into account, to help the flow of the clinic,” Person said
For both clinics, UH partnered with Walgreens to dispense the vaccine to members of the university community who fell under either the Phase 1A or Phase 1B eligibility for vaccination. This included frontline healthcare workers, people 65 and older, and people 16 and over with at least one chronic medical condition that would put them at increased risk for severe illness, and for the second, also people 50 and over.
The Student Health Center plans to continue asking for more doses and hopes the entire UH community will be vaccinated by the Fall. Person said.
Days to Plan
The Student Health Center became an approved vaccine distributor in January, but Person said they did not find out until February 19 that they would be receiving nearly 1,100 doses for the first clinic. At the time, she said, they weren’t even sure who would be administering the injections to patients. Walgreens signed on mere days before the clinics were scheduled, she said, and their help was invaluable.
UH provided the space, organized the volunteers, and managed logistics and appointments, but Walgreens provided pharmacy team members to deliver the vaccine injections and follow state and federal vaccine document requirements. Person credits Jennifer Graham, patient services manager at the Health Center, with the clinic’s success for creating and managing the complex paperwork needed for state and federal compliance.
“While the Student Health Center met the challenge of organizing and implementing our first mass COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic for the UH Community, our partnership with Walgreens brought a wealth of knowledge and manpower to ensure a successful clinic,” Graham said. “The other UH departments — volunteers as well as the UH students, faculty and staff — receiving their first dose of the vaccine also contributed to the clinic’s success. We look forward to our next scheduled clinic for the administration of second doses and additional clinics in the future.”
Walgreens has been administering COVID-19 vaccines since December, delivering more than four million doses in the past few months.
The mass vaccination clinic, held inside Student Center South, was a relief to not only those who got the shot in the arm, but a welcome sight for UH administrators eager to contribute to this public health crisis.
Dr. Ben King, clinical assistant professor in the UH College of Medicine, answered a call for volunteers to work at the clinic, and he ended up showing patients to each station. He quickly learned to use clear, simple language and reassuring body language to help keep nervous patients calm.
As an epidemiologist, he’s been trying to help any way he can to contribute to public health efforts since he came here from UT Austin.
The clinic, King said, ran impressively smooth. “You could tell there were a few kinks to work out in the first hour of the first day, but the students, staff and faculty were remarkably prepared,” he said. “Even with the operation running at a smooth pace, the team coordinating the intake up front sought feedback. From the back of the intake line, where I was, I was able to point to a bottleneck that was quickly resolved. Easy peasy. Amazing leadership and amazing volunteers.”
Dr. Woods Nash, assistant professor of bioethics and medical humanities in the College of Medicine, jumped at the chance to volunteer. As a new faculty member in the College of Medicine, he said, he’s barely been to the UH campus this past year.
Looking to “make myself useful,” Nash said he chaperoned people from the paperwork zone to the vaccine area. That, he said, was a perfect fit. “I had the chance to welcome each person and to try to make them feel comfortable, which wasn’t always easy,” Nash said. “Some were visibly nervous, while others were excited for this long-awaited moment.”
Like King, he thought the Student Health Center and Walgreens put on an impressive clinic. “Being involved in that simple capacity taught me the importance of teamwork,” he said. “Vaccine sites depend on the collaborative efforts of many people, each of whom needs to communicate clearly with those they serve. I was impressed by the efficiency and kindness with which vaccines were given by the Student Health Center.”
Jenna Riley was the very first person to receive the vaccine during the UH clinic. A student in the College of Nursing, she volunteered at the clinic as well. Getting the vaccine, she told the University of Houston news team, was “definitely a relief. Coming to UH is really a good experience because I go to school here, and I was able to get a vaccine here and help my community.”
For others, it was a relief to get some protection from the virus. “I’ve been excited about it and ready to move on,” Sean Pugh, a master’s student in the Graduate College of Social Work told UH. “I want to be able to not have to worry so much.”
King, for one, says he is absolutely ready to get back in the office — but not until it’s safe.
“We are not ready to return to normal,” King said. “I totally understand that we are all anxious to get there. I’m tired of this pandemic, too. However, what we are doing is working right now. We have to keep up the good work of following the guidelines while vaccinating the community until we’re across the finish line.”