Despite a weather-related delayed start, the Worcester State large-scale vaccination clinic opened successfully on Tuesday, Feb. 16, with a steady stream of eligible people arriving to get one of two shots needed for protection against COVID-19.
Those with appointments made through the state system parked in the North Parking Lot and waited for their designated time to flash up on the Coughlin Field scoreboard before entering the Wellness Center. An army of purple-shirted volunteers guided each patient through the tightly planned operation in the Competition Gym, where 15 stations were manned by volunteer medical personnel from Commonwealth Medicine’s Vaccine Corp, including two stations with Worcester State nursing students. After receiving their shots, patients were required to wait for 15 minutes as they were monitored for a rare allergic reaction.
About 500 people were vaccinated without incident on the first day, and 500 more each day this week. Given adequate vaccine supply, the clinic has the capacity to give up 2,000 vaccinations per day when in full operation.
Nursing major Rachel Casey ’21 was one of five Worcester State nursing students—three seniors and two in the Master of Science in Nursing/Community and Public Health program—giving vaccines on opening day, under the guidance of instructor Gina Fleury ’98, M.S. ’12, R.N., clinical resources coordinator.
“People were appreciative and very happy to see us,” said Casey. “They all thanked us over and over for what we’re doing, and that really touched my heart. I told them, it’s really our honor to be doing this.”
The site was created from scratch in under three weeks, a team effort that included leadership from Conference and Event Services (CESO) Director Michael McKenna. He met daily with representatives from Saint Vincent Hospital, which is providing clinical and operational leadership at the site, and Commonwealth Medicine, the health care consulting and operations division of UMass Medical School, which is providing logistical support, project management, and volunteer staffing support.
If enough vaccines are available, the clinic is scheduled to run Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., although vaccine shortages have forced shortened hours this week. Every Saturday evening CESO staff will completely disassemble the clinic, removing the protective flooring to let the gym’s hard-wood surface below breathe and prevent damage. Every Monday evening, CESO staff will set it up again to prepare for the week ahead.
Casey and Fleury agree the clinic was well organized and they felt supported throughout their day of volunteering.
“This is my first experience with a large-scale distribution site, and I was surprised how seamless the process was, and how efficiently our clients flowed through. The clients were also impressed, and they commented on how easy and well organized it was,” said Fleury. In addition to supervising students once a week, she plans to volunteer for other roles at the clinic, even on Saturdays, because she understands the urgency.
“Vaccinations are such a huge component of public health. The more people we can get vaccinated the better,” she said.
“I know this is something a lot of students want to experience. It’s nice to be a small part of the solution,” said Casey. She added cautionary advice heard from other medical experts: “The vaccines have given people a sigh of relief and hope for the future, but everyone still needs to be socially distant and wear masks for now.”
Read about how the local media covered the opening here:
In the photo above, from left: Rachel Casey ’21; Natalie Ross ’21; President Barry Maloney, Ashley Meschke, R.N., student in the M.S. in Nursing, Community Public Health track; Gina-Marie Fleury, M.S., R.N., staff associate, clinical resources coordinator; and Anita Swift ’21.
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