Tour of Valley View COVID-19 vaccine clinic gives glimpse into intricate details of major phase of pandemic response
Valley View Hospital’s directors of human resources, marketing, Family Birthplace and Integrated Therapy Services have something in common these days they never imagined would be the case.
They all play an integral part in the Glenwood Springs hospital’s now-routine COVID-19 vaccination clinics, which began mid-December when the vaccine first became available.
Amid the fast-paced flurry of activity on clinic days that can see upwards of 1,200 people scheduled in to receive their shots, they also still have a hospital to help run.
“Babies are still born in a pandemic,” said Tina Cox, clinical supervisor for the Family Birthplace at Valley View.
She’s one of the many hospital workers who now doubles as a vaccinator, administering shots to hundreds of people on any given day.
“Giving vaccines, it’s been really rewarding,” Cox said. “It’s empowering to be able to show people that they don’t need to be scared and we’re here to help them get through this.
“And people are really happy,” she said. “We’re giving them a light at the end of the tunnel, and they’re happy to be here … it’s nice to be a part of all this smiling and laughter.”
Indeed, a second-dose clinic at the hospital on Wednesday at times had a business or service organization conference feel to it.
Volunteers and hospital staff were at different stations starting at west valet entrance off Blake Avenue, pointing people in the right direction up to the cafeteria level where the main conference room serves as vaccination central.
And, those receiving their shots made the most of the time while seated in the hallway for the required 15 minutes of post-vaccine observation for a little chit-chat.
‘All hands on deck’
Trish Hittinger has been a volunteer at Valley View for eight years, and was happy when the vaccine rollout started so that she could offer her assistance.
“The patients who have come here have been so complimentary about how organized we are, and how smoothly everything goes,” Hittinger said as she helped point people down the hall and into the conference room.
There, patients are ushered through a three-station process including greeting and check-in, a quick health screening and then administration of the shot itself.
“It’s all hands on deck,” said Jo Bershenyi, who normally manages the Integrated Therapy Services at Valley View’s Calaway Young Cancer Center.
Today, and on most clinic days she’s busy being greeter and checking people in for their first or second dose of vaccine.
“This is all part of serving our community and we’re just helping out where we can. This is a well-oiled machine … I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
Serving as human resources director for one of the largest employers in Glenwood Springs and managing the personnel needed to run a full-scale vaccination clinic go hand in hand for Valley View HR Director Daniel Biggs.
“It’s all about people,” he said.
“The best word to describe it is people are just energized to be able to be involved in something like this, and to help the community in this way and push back against this virus in a way that we hadn’t been able to do prior to mid-December when we started to get the vaccines.”
Josh Anderson is the emergency manager and safety officer for Valley View.
So, when the hospital began gearing up to serve as one of Garfield County’s primary vaccination sites — along with Grand River Health in Rifle and Mountain Family Health Centers in Glenwood and Rifle — Anderson took a lead role in managing the process.
“During this whole pandemic response we had to be fluid and be able to change constantly,” Anderson said. “The biggest issue at first was testing, and then testing shifted to vaccines.”
Making every dose count
The process of dispensing a single dose of vaccine actually begins several days prior to a person showing up for their appointment, which helps save time when they do arrive, he explained.
“We average about 2 minutes and 30 seconds from the time a person starts at the greeting station to actually being injected,” Anderson said.
In addition to the roughly two dozen hospital workers and volunteers who staff each pod in the vaccine room, a lot goes on behind the scenes, especially in the pharmacy, Biggs added.
On a day like Wednesday, when close to a thousand patients were scheduled, extra pharmacists are called in to begin the process early in the morning of drawing, mixing and getting the vaccines to the right temperature before they’re brought to the vaccine room.
“All day long they’re standing in the hood in the pharmacy managing these vaccines, so that we can give them as quickly as we can up here,” Biggs said.
For that day’s clinic, Valley View received 155 vials of the Pfizer vaccine, each with six doses. Because several vials end up having an extra dose, the hospital anticipated having 1,069 doses of the Pfizer product alone.
“We had 998 people scheduled, so we obviously fulfilled all of those appointments,” Stacey Gavrell, director of community relations for the hospital, said. “So with the additional 71 appointments we reached out to additional people in the community and got them in.”
That included several people who had missed their original second dose appointments, as well as new employees at the hospital and some of the eligible occupation groups, she said.
The clinic itself runs about 129 people per hour, Biggs said. He added, though, “we’re only limited by the number of vaccines we’re given.”
11,000 and counting
Coming into this week, Valley View had administered 8,800 first and second doses of vaccine. By week’s end, it expected to have surpassed 11,000.
“This has been a huge collaboration with Grand River and the other vaccination sites,” Gavrell said, explaining the vaccines were divvied up geographically so that Grand River could cover vaccines on the west end of the county, and Valley View could cover the east-end communities.
“By dynamically working together it has allowed us to really be pushing the envelope on our populations that are eligible,” Gavrell said, also adding, “the universal challenge is the supply of vaccine that’s available.”
Cici Kinney of Carbondale was among the patients receiving a second dose of the vaccine on Wednesday.
She had COVID-19 back in March of 2020 when the first cases in the global coronavirus pandemic began showing up in Colorado and Garfield County.
“It’s nice. It’s a relief, for sure,” she said as she took a seat in the post-vaccine waiting area, which is a precaution in case someone has a bad reaction.
“I want to travel internationally again someday, so it’s nice to know that maybe I can do that again,” Kinney said.
Greg Jeung of Glenwood Springs also received his second dose Wednesday.
He worked as a courier for Valley View before experiencing medical issues early last year that landed him in the hospital for a long recovery. He said he now takes an immune-suppressant drug, which can reduce the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I had two doctors tell me it’s still better to get the vaccination than to actually get COVID, so here I am,” Jeung said. “I’m just looking forward to getting out more and want to be able to come back to Valley View to volunteer and give back myself.”
Chris Benson is a social studies and civics teacher at Glenwood Springs High School who was in for his second dose. Teachers are among the high-priority “essential workers” as defined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to receive the vaccine.
“I feel a little bit guilty, because I’m sure there are people who are at higher risk than I am,” he said. “It’s awesome, though. I feel grateful and a bit relieved, but I hope people who need it more than I do can get in here, also.”
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