Providing COVID-19 vaccines to thousands of community members within a few days is a massive undertaking. What steps are involved in transporting and preparing COVID-19 vaccines for mass vaccination events? How are safety and training involved?

Coronavirus Updates | 2 months ago

Your Backstage Pass to a COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Event

Providing COVID-19 vaccines to thousands of community members within a few days is a massive undertaking. What steps are involved in transporting and preparing COVID-19 vaccines for mass vaccination events? How are safety and training involved? Catch a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work that takes place at the Charlotte Motor Speedway during these events. And discover how the dedication, flexibility and efficiency of our pharmacy team members and volunteers make the whole process appear effortless.

As you drive up to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, you see the rows of cars neatly organized. You take your place in line and fill out a form with your health information. When it’s your turn, you roll down your window and get your dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Then you wait 15 minutes to ensure there are no adverse reactions. 

This is the typical sequence of activities that occurs during a mass vaccination event. These events are part of a unique public-private partnership formed between Honeywell, Atrium Health, Tepper Sports & Entertainment and the Charlotte Motor Speedway and backed by Gov. Roy Cooper, with the goal of distributing 1 million doses of the vaccine by July 4, 2021To date, the partnership has hosted three mass vaccination events, vaccinating over 16,000 community members at the speedway’s last 4-day event. 

While it all may seem very simple and efficient, you may not realize all the hard work and dedication going on behind the scenes.   

Vaccination goals and supplies 

The supply list for just one mass vaccination event is astounding. To vaccinate 16,000 community members, you need the following supplies: 

  • 16,000 administration syringes. 
  • 3,000 vials of sterile saline solution for mixing. 
  • 3,000 dilution syringes. 
  • 16,000 vaccination cards. 
  • Thousands of alcohol pads and face masks. 

“To achieve our vaccination goal, we need to administer about 600 syringes an hour,” said Eddie Seijo, director of pharmacy operations with Atrium Health. “We create an assembly line to ensure that everyone’s doing what they need to do quickly and efficiently. We keep things moving in order to ensure a smooth, easy experience for our patients.” 

Vaccine transport and pharmacy prep 

Starting at 5 a.m., pharmacy team members with Atrium Health pack the vials of vaccines in an insulated cooler and transport them to the speedway. Refrigeration units are on-site to store the vials. Team members monitor the vaccines closely to maintain their temperature at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.  

Workers put plastic sheeting on the walls and floors to convert the garage at the speedway into a makeshift pharmacy. “As you can imagine, we make the environment as clean as possible,” Seijo explained. “Because we are in a garage, it takes the work of dozens of people to keep things as sterile as possible and maintain our temperatures. We’re really impressed by all these efforts. 

Syringe prep and volunteer training 

The pharmacy team organizes multiple stations to prepare syringes. Team members prepare each vaccine vial by gently inverting it during the mixing stage. Since the Pfizer vaccine is concentrated, imust be diluted with sterile saline solution before administeringThe team makes precise measurements throughout the process. After mixing, the vials must be resuspended in order to get 6 doses out of each one. 

After careful preparation, the pharmacy team counts the vaccine syringes and records their expiration time. (This step is especially critical since the vaccine must be used within a short period of time after it’s removed from refrigeration) Supervisors triple-check the prepared syringes for quality control 

The pharmacy team transfers the syringes to the frontline workers. The pharmacy team holds a volunteer training session to cover essential protocols and procedures before the vaccines are administered 

Teamworkflexibility and engagement 

The pharmacy team and volunteers work together and support each other throughout the vaccination event. “Team members must remain aware of what their partners are doing while staying focused on their own work,” Seijo related. That way if they notice that someone is struggling, they can help pick up the slack.  

According to Seijo, engagement within the team is vital. “Everyone has to really stay engaged with each other and make sure they’re listening to what the need is,” he said. “Then they have to be flexible enough to support that need.  

To help stay focused and engaged, the pharmacy team breaks down the vaccination goal by what is needed by the day and by the hour. “Keeping tasks at a manageable size makes the work more palatable and achievable,” explained Seijo. “Updating our team members on our progress throughout the day helps keep them motivated.” 

Community care and safety 

“Our most important goal is to ensure that our patients are safe,” Seijo revealed. “To care for our community safely, we have to be as precise as humanly possible. We have specific quality checks in place to ensure that patients are getting exactly what they need and nothing else.” 

This is our hope, this our future, this is our inspiration,” said Charline Shropshire, application specialist with Atrium Health’s pharmacy division. I really am Atrium Health proud because of the amount of people that we’re touching with this one event. It’s just amazing.” 

Vaccine scheduling and eligibility 

The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. To sign up for the vaccine or to learn more about vaccination events, eligibility and prescreening, please visit AtriumHealth.org/covid19vaccine