Two by two, vehicles pulled into the parking lot of Sangre de Cristo Electric Association at the north end of town for Buena Vista’s first mass vaccination event. Chaffee County Public Health distributed 115 of the first round of shots of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

The event started at noon, but by 11:30 a.m., several cars had already begun to stack in the lot, where recipients prepared for that eagerly-awaited jab in the arm, administered through open car windows by CCPH staff.

“We are really satisfied with today’s clinic,” said CCPH director Andrea Carlstrom. “We are so grateful to Sangre de Cristo Electric Association, town of Buena Vista staff and police department, Solvista Health and Chaffee County EMS for their support in pulling off another mass vaccination event.

“The model itself seems to be working really well,’ Carlstrom said. “We experienced a surge at the beginning, which definitely slowed down as the afternoon progressed, so we were able to add a few unexpected slots.”

The vaccine comes in two doses. Carlstrom said that an event to administer the second dose is planned for March 16.

“As of right now, we will be using the same location and model,” she said.

The logistics for the event came together quickly, beginning when Buena Vista town administrator Phil Puckett, along with county commissioner Keith Baker, got an e-mail from Carlstrom early Wednesday, Feb. 10, notifying them that public health had received doses of the vaccine.

“One of the topics that we had brought up in previous round-table discussions with the county and public health is that we wanted to find every opportunity to add clinics and doses and all of that for the northern end of the county,” Puckett said. “Andrea reached out to me and Keith Baker and said, ‘Hey, she had just found out recently about the extra doses, and if we could find a location, and pull together some volunteers, they would be able to host a clinic in BV the following week … We got on a Zoom meeting later that morning and talked about the location of a clinic and what they would need in terms of space and facilities and electric and all that stuff.”

What Sangre de Cristo had that town-owned facilities lacked was space for cars to stack – to line up – and wait the required 15 minutes after the shot is administered.

“I felt like the Sangre de Cristo in the northern part of town fit what was being described by Andrea: they have two entrances from the highway, they have a parking lot that you can drive in a circle, so you could have cars stacking if there was ever a bunch of people arriving at the same time, they could get into the parking lot,” Puckett said. “We agreed that looked like a viable site, it also provided some indoor space for the public health personnel.”

Puckett called Paul Erickson, CEO of SdCEA, and together they “spent the afternoon documenting what would be needed in general for the space and the timeframes that they would be needing it.”

“We were thrilled at the opportunity to lend our facilities to the town of BV and Chaffee County Public Health, for the good people of Chaffee County,” Erickson said. “After all, as a community electric cooperative it’s our duty to help our folks and under the circumstances we were certainly happy to do so.”

Carlstrom said that when CCPH is able to hold another event like the one Tuesday “will depend on when we get a shipment of first doses again.

“At times, we are getting information about shipments on an hourly or daily basis and have a tight turnaround timeline to schedule clinics. However, we hope to do it more often and partner with other vaccine providers to make sure we can get as much vaccine as possible into the arms of all Chaffee County residents, regardless of where they live,” she said.

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