By Bruce A. Smith
The first mass inoculation program conducted in Eatonville rolled out Saturday, January 30, without any major gaffes or interruptions. One-thousand individuals received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine at the event, held at the Eatonville High School from 8 am until 4 pm.
A joint project sponsored by Kirk’s Pharmacy, the Eatonville School Board, and the MultiCare Family Clinic in Eatonville, the vaxing was well-organized and greatly appreciated by those receiving their inoculation.
The event was managed by an army of volunteers that delivered the shots and guided the public through the maze of parking, registration, inoculation, and the mandatory fifteen to thirty minute recovery period where staff monitored possible side-effects.
“We had over thirty volunteers from the school district and at least twenty-five health practitioners who volunteered their time to participate in this program,” said Kirk Heinz, the owner of Kirk’s Pharmacy and the organizer of the clinical aspects of the rollout. “We had nurses and dentists, pharmacists and technicians – some from as far away as Maple Valley – helping out today, said Heinz.
The vibe was celebratory, as many were relieved to finally get some protection from the Covid virus, especially as it seems to be growing more contagious.
“Everyone is so happy here – to give it and to get it,” echoed Richard Holley, a pharmacist from South Hill who helped supervise the injections.
“I was panicking about the new strains,” said Gerald Daniels of Puyallup as he rolled up his sleeve for a shot. “I was really tripping, so I’m grateful to be here.”
The mass inoculations were a multi-step process.
First, people had to sign-up in-person at the high school at 8 am to receive an appointment. The decision to use a physical sign-up – as opposed to an online or phone registration – did create huge traffic jams early in the day, but it did provide an alternative to folks without iPhones and computers. Recent mass injection programs, such as conducted by MultiCare and Virginia Mason-Franciscan last week at Clover Park Technical College and the Puyallup Fairgrounds, left many frustrated when they could not access the online system to obtain an appointment. In addition, online methods are employed to deliver appointments for in-store inoculations at Kirk’s and other small pharmacies, leaving many without access to the vaccine.
All one-thousand appointments were dispensed by 8:30 am, and a “back-up” group was formed if extra doses were available late in the day, which proved to be the case. “High Risk” folks were at the top of that secondary list.
When people arrived at their appointed time, they were ushered into the high school’s cafeteria area for registration and a quick medical screening. Although the vaccination is free, individuals with health insurance cards were also asked to present them for identification purposes.
Next, individuals were sent to the vaccination room – a ten-station affair in the small gym. However, most people had registered in small groups of two, three and four, and all were vaccinated at the same station. The person giving the injection was either a doctor, a physician’s assistant, or a nurse.
Near-by and behind the scenes, a four-member team of clinicians loaded syringes with the vaccine from their refrigerated supply.
“Outside the cooler, these shots are viable for up to six hours,” said volunteer Amber Martinez, a nurse from Mary Bridge Hospital.
The actual injection was quick – a two-second jab in the upper arm. Then recipients were directed to the recovery room in the large gym.
“We haven’t seen any serious side-effects all day,” said Dr. Gloria Lowe, who directed the recovery room, and is a staff doc at the MultiCare Clinic in Eatonville. “People are very grateful, and feeling very hopeful, too,” said Dr. Lowe.
However, reports are coming in from state officials that side-effects are being recorded during the second dose inoculation, said “Carolyn,” one of the recovery room volunteers.
Nevertheless, the whole operation was viewed as effective and successful.
“It’s been very efficient,” said MultiCare’s Dr. Howard Hull, one of the clinicians giving shots, adding, “early this morning we processed about 200 per hour, which translates to twenty injections per hour per station.”
All of the inoculations were the Moderna type, which requires a second dose in 28 days. Everyone receiving their first dose today was issued an identity card, which will qualify them to receive their second dose at a follow-up program on February 27, 2021. Individuals are asked to arrive at the Eatonville High School about the same time they had for their first shot.
However, Kirk told the Mountain News that he has received information from Moderna that their second dose has a window of viability of 22-38 days. “If people need their second dose and can’t make the exact date for the second appointment, they can call us and we’ll squeeze them in somewhere,” Kirk said.
As for the larger vaccine rollout, Kirk shared vital information.
“We’re giving between 30-60 doses a day at our pharmacy in Eatonville,” he said. Appointments can be made at their website: https://www.kirkspharmacy.com/ .
However, at this time appointments are not available for another month. Nevertheless, Kirk suggests folks try early in the day to obtain an appointment from cancellations, etc.
Kirk said that all of his doses come from the state health department, and he is receiving shipments on a weekly basis. “I’ve asked for 330 doses for next week, which should cover all the first and second doses coming in. But we’re not hoarding any vaccine. We’re injecting everything we’ve got.”
As for future supplies, Kirk says that issue is “uncertain.”
Saturday’s mass vaccination is a new development in the statewide rollout, switching from small, in-store delivery programs to the large-scale inoculations, such as at the high school.
“It’s more a efficient method,” said Dr. Lowe. “At the Eatonville clinic, we can only dispense two doses every fifteen minutes, since our other treatment rooms are being used for non-Covid purposes.”
Kirk echoed agreement on this shift. “The Governor is pushing for mass inoculations versus the small, in-store approach. But he’s had to ask some facilities for give-backs to get the quantities needed for the big programs.”
Fortunately, Kirk’s Pharmacy has not been asked to give back any vaccine.
Kirk also acknowledged that the early rollouts were marred with disappointment and chaos.
“The transition to 1-B was really confusing,” he said. “We were informed about the switch from 1-A – the frail elderly, nursing home staff and patients, and health care workers, to the 1-B people – individuals over 65 and those over 50 who live in a multi-generational home – at the last minute. As a result, we got 500 phone calls on that first day from people looking for an appointment.”
However, Kirk’s son, Andrew Heinz, improved their website and was able to distribute 1,600 appointments shortly thereafter.
Washington State’s Department of Health has had enormous difficulty with their vaccine software program, known as PrepMod, designed to handle appointments, medical screenings, and second dose appointments – plus sending all that data to the federal CDC, which is tracking the overall national vaccination program. However, Kirk is not using PrepMod. “We’re using Andrew’s program,” he said with a smile, “and it’s working fine.”
As a result, Kirk’s Pharmacy has been able to deliver a significant amount of vaccine to the 1-A group.
“Since December 28, 2020, we’ve given out about 600 doses to the 1-A group. But there’s still a lot of folks who need a shot. On my days off I go to adult family facilities and nursing homes to inoculate the residents and staff.”
Such dedication has not gone unnoticed.
“Kirk is a Super Hero,” said Bev Martin, a volunteer stationed at one of the registration desks. “We’re so lucky to have him here in Eatonville. This event today wouldn’t have happened without him.”
Kirk Heinz,(l) and Richard Holley, (r), at the Mass Covid Vaccination Event in Eatonville.
Dr. Gloria Lowe supervising the Recovery Room.
Dr. Howard Hull vaccinating Gerald Daniels in Eatonville on Saturday.
Kirk Heinz, (r), standing socially distant from Ms. Krestin Bahr, Superintendent of the Eatonville School District. “It’s been an amazing journey,” Ms. Bahr said about the vaccination program. “What a way to show love to the community.”
My injector, Dr. Eric Hanson, DDS, of Eatonville. I was a fortunate recipient of a dose as a member of the “back-up group,” and I received my shot late Saturday.
My nurse, Jesse, who is an RN at the Auburn Medical Center in her “day job.”
The Recovery Room at the Eatonville High School. Individuals stayed here for fifteen minutes post-injection, or thirty minutes if they have had a history of allergic reactions. No side-reactions to the vaccine were reported today in Eatonville’s large-scale inoculation event.
Go Cruisers! Over 1,000 people received a vaccination for Covid today at EHS.