The race to vaccinate
Last Spring, we were all hunkered down, realizing that our “two weeks to flatten the curve” would be longer than we thought. We adjusted our lives, ordered groceries online, created backyard spaces to visit friends and families, and got creative with summer vacation plans. Summer turned to fall, school moved online for our students and hopes of holiday celebrations with friends and family were dashed for many.
Life as we knew it had changed immeasurably, but our community pressed on. You followed the guidance, and we were able to keep disease prevalence low through masking, physical distance, and frequent hand washing. There was a lot at stake. As one of the oldest counties in the state with a median age of 57.9 and a small Critical Access Hospital with 25 beds, we didn’t have much wiggle room.
News of a vaccine seemed ethereal and out of reach, but it came and not a moment too soon. We responded quickly and ordered an ultra-low freezer in anticipation of vaccine storage. We began planning the vaccination of all our employees, a daunting task requiring educating staff, answering vaccine questions, and staggering vaccination dates to ensure sufficient staffing in anticipation of vaccine reactions. No sooner had we finished with staff than we needed a plan for our community. How, when, and where to vaccinate 30,000 residents and still function as a hospital with specialty and primary care clinics? The Jefferson Healthcare Drive-Thru Immunization Clinic stood up in January, an appointment scheduling app was implemented, team members were recruited from their regular duties to go out into the elements and vaccinate our neighbors.
We began with the oldest and most frail in our community and worked our way through, one shot at a time. Jefferson County residents were eager. In the beginning, we were vaccinating over 350 people a day. We battled supply and demand constantly, knowing that every shot was one step closer to everyday life. Quickly, more vaccines became available, and more people were eligible to receive the vaccine.
After more than six months and almost 25,000 doses administered, the Immunization Clinic has slowed. The clinic will continue second dose shots until mid-June and staff will return to more typical work life.
Jefferson County is the most vaccinated county in the state (as well as the oldest) and has consistently shown to have one of the lowest of disease prevalence. This didn’t happen by chance; it happened because of the thoughtful, diligent community and excellent teamwork and planning from a local hospital team.
There is still work to be done, and we are confident our community partners will be able to reach those who still need vaccination. Jefferson Healthcare will provide the medical care you need, and vaccinations are now available in our primary care clinics and the Express Clinic for those who still need a shot. For Express Clinic hours click here