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More than 3,300 people receive COVID-19 vaccination in weekend effort

The event showcased M Health Fairview’s commitment to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible individuals as soon as it is received.

From Thursday, Jan. 28 to Sunday, Jan. 31, M Health Fairview administered more than 3,300 first-dose COVID-19 vaccines to eligible community members in a push to accelerate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. All individuals vaccinated were in the 1a or 1b priority groups, as defined by the Minnesota Department of Health, which include healthcare workers and people 75 and older, respectively.

This marks the health system’s largest single vaccination event to date. It was planned and put together in less than a week, after M Health Fairview’s COVID vaccination team learned that they would be receiving a larger-than-expected supply of vaccine to administer that week. The team behind the health system’s COVID-19 vaccination effort sprang into action to coordinate the many moving parts required to pull off a successful mass-vaccination event.

“The primary driver for this event was our commitment to distribute the vaccine as soon as we get it,” said pharmacist and COVID-19 vaccination lead John Pastor, System Vice President, Pharmacy and Respiratory Care.

Once the vaccine is pulled from ultra-cold storage into regular refrigeration, it must be used within five days. Once it is prepared for injection – a process that involves diluting the vaccine – it must be given within just six hours. “The timeline adds complexity to our efforts,” Pastor said. “The clock is not on our side.”

Staff embrace opportunity to serve

The information technology team swiftly put together scheduling capability to make it easy for people to sign up, while staggering appointment slots to enable social distancing. Second, once M Health Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville was identified as the location, facilities teams came together to set up the waiting, registration, vaccination, after-shot monitoring area, and second-dose scheduling areas for an easy patient flow that allowed safe distancing. Next, the team needed to staff the event with every shift requiring at least 10 vaccinators, onsite pharmacists, 10 people working at the registration and follow-up scheduling tables, and others answering questions, directing traffic, and monitoring people after the shots. Throughout the weekend, 245 staff members volunteered to help.

“We asked for volunteers from our staff and community – the staff filled many of the spots within 48 hours,” said Chief Medical Information Officer Bryan Jarabek, MD, PhD. “The outpouring of support from people wanting to help vaccinate the elderly patients and health care workers was inspiring.”

“Everyone working there – both the staff and the volunteers – was excited to be there, because they knew how important this was for our patients,” Pastor added. “People had so much gratitude for the opportunity to receive the vaccine.”

Edina resident Dave Mona, 77, was impressed with the well-orchestrated event. His wife learned about the vaccine opportunity through an email from M Health Fairview. “As I was getting my shot Friday evening, I spoke with the nurse who was doing my vaccination. She said she had come straight from her day job to be there. That speaks volumes, and it epitomized the attitude of everyone there. It’s a noble effort.”

A follow-up, second-dose event is planned at M Health Fairview Ridges in mid-February, so that everyone can come back for their second doses 21 days after getting the first dose. Across the system, M Health Fairview is continuing to administer vaccinations through nine of its outpatient clinics. The health system hopes to expand COVID-19 vaccination locations to additional clinics in the coming months as the system receives additional vaccine supply. If the supply surges, M Health Fairview plans to host additional mass vaccination events to supplement the ability to give doses at each of its vaccination sites.

“We’re partnering with the state to have a more consistent supply of vaccine, so that people can go to their regular clinics and get care,” Jarabek said. “Ideally patients will be able to plan ahead and get their appointments at the places most convenient to them in a way that best fits their schedule.”

M Health Fairview continues to vaccinate people in accordance with state eligibility guidelines. To learn more visit our COVID-19 Resource Hub.