Chaffee County Public Health, the town of Buena Vista and Sange de Cristo Electric Association combined resources to schedule Buena Vista’s first mass vaccination clinic Feb. 16.
The following is a narrative timeline of the process for getting a handle on the chaos of uncertainty. The “order’s-in waiting game, maybe it will, probably could, likely to happen, yes?” process by which vaccine doses trickle from the national pipeline to Chaffee County start with uncertainty and end with get jumpin’ urgency.
NOTIFICATION Feb. 9, 10:04 p.m. CPDHE automated email notifies Chaffee Health the order placed the previous Friday has been granted.
CLOCK WAS ALREADY TICKING The state requires doses be administered within 72 hours of receipt with possible use-it or lose-it consequences for local administrators – week after week. Some weeks, full requests are granted and others have been rejected or partially granted. “Because we do not want to create any false hope, we have been very careful to only release dates and slots when we feel fairly confident that we will be receiving first or second doses and of which type of vaccine,” explains Chaffee Health director and COVID-19 incident response commander Andrea Carlstrom.
CHANGING RULES, LEARNING AS WE GO Since doses began rolling out nationally in late December, the ordering process has changed three times.
“I think we are on our way to a more streamlined system. However, there is no full confidence week after week,” Carlstrom says.
CLOCK TICKS, BUT WITH MORE URGENCY Doses aren’t always deep frozen. Chaffee Health received 450 Pfizer doses for the Feb. 12 clinic for Buena Vista school staff last week, but they were in refrigeration rather than ultra cold chain.
“We have 120 hours from frozen to refrigeration to use them,” Carlstrom explains. “Wasting doses is not an option, so we spring into action once we know what resources we have been approved for and what we actually get. We have had to pivot many times.”
MORNING COMES EARLY
Carlstrom emailed her team at 6:09 a.m., Wednesday to initiate the process to reconcile second doses neeeded to determine how many would be left for a BV clinic. She emailed Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker and Buena Vista town administrator Phil Puckett before 8 a.m., to initiate planning a BV mass vaccination “due to the increased supply of vaccine for that week.”
The following Tuesday was the next available date, reserved for a not-yet scheduled event.
YOU’VE HEARD THAT TIME FLIES, right?
11:30 a.m. Zoom meeting: Sangre de Cristo was suggested as a potential site for the vaccination clinic. Puckett contacted Paul Erickson, SdCEA CEO, and he approved the suggestion.
Early afternoon CCPH lines out staffing, volunteers, times, logistics, etc. Because building the “online scheduler takes time, I had one of my nurses work on it in between meetings and appointments throughout the afternoon,” Carlstrom said.
4:50 p.m. The online scheduler is live and a press release e-mailed to 130-plus stakeholders, media and others.
10:30 a.m., Feb. 11 Walkthrough of facility with Sangre de Cristo and town staff.
CHALLENGES KEEP THOSE CLOCKS TICKING
“While our vaccination distribution is a significant milestone in the pandemic and should be a celebration, the complexities and challenges that have come with it have continued to put local public health in a tight position,” Carlstrom says. “It was my intent to share that experience with the people living in the north end of the county who might find it difficult to travel to the Chaffee County Fairgrounds.”
EARLY RESULTS ARE IN
“Working at the clinics, I have seen and heard tremendous gratitude and appreciation,” she says. “There have been tears, smiles, laughter, and stories shared. People have told me how hopeful they are that there is finally light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.”