Published in the May/June edition of Roseman University’s print edition of spectRum magazine.
By Jason Roth
In late 2020, following months of social distancing, school closures and lockdowns, and an economy struggling to find its way during a period of great uncertainty, the world waited with bated breath for the announcement of vaccines to kick-start a global recovery from the deadliest pandemic in a century.
Capitalizing on years of research prior to the pandemic, scientists were able to develop vaccines less than a year after COVID-19 was identified, a reflection of remarkable progress in vaccine technology. In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and, soon after, the Moderna vaccine became available for the adult population.
Following the FDA’s greenlight, the challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions of adults became a reality. The logistics of distribution, made complicated by the vaccines’ low storage temperature and two dose requirements, would make it the largest and most daunting vaccination effort in U.S. history. It would take public and private sectors working together to make sure that every American who wanted the vaccine could get it.
THE ROSEMAN APPROACH
Early on, Roseman University was brought into vaccine roll-out planning in Nevada when the Southern Nevada Health District sought the help of third parties to get the vaccine out to as many people as possible through the establishment of Points of Dispensary (PODs).
With the College of Pharmacy’s Dr. Christina Madison at the helm, a University-wide Task Force was quickly assembled to help plan and coordinate vaccination PODs at Roseman’s Summerlin and Henderson campuses. The Task Force met weekly to discuss POD logistics and ways to continuously improve.
From the onset, Roseman’s deliberate approach was smaller in scale than most community PODs, focusing on the patient experience. “The Roseman PODs were boutique operations to provide patients fast and efficient service,” said Dr. Madison. “Our goal was to avoid long lines and wait times and to educate our patients.”
On January 9, Roseman successfully held its first POD at the Summerlin campus. Nearly 150 people – a small number to test patient flow and space capacity – were administered the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Throughout the following weeks, Roseman continued to hold PODs rotating between the Summerlin and Henderson campuses every two weeks. Each POD provided first and second dose vaccinations to between 300 and 700 eligible southern Nevadans.
VOLUNTEERS MAKE IT HAPPEN
Vaccination PODs require a lot of volunteers to fill roles such as patient flow, check-in, registrar/medical evaluation, vaccine prep, vaccination, post-vaccination reaction observation, and data entry. Each role is integral to making a POD run smoothly.
To make Roseman’s PODs a success, it was all-hands-on-deck. Each POD required between 60 and 100 volunteers collectively working morning and afternoon shifts. Fortunately, Roseman’s community-minded faculty, staff and students quickly joined the effort, along with volunteers from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Team Rubicon and the Clark County Medical Society Alliance. Together, Roseman’s volunteers devoted more than 5,000 hours to the vaccination effort over a period of 15 weeks.
“Thousands of hours of planning, operations, and logistics have gone into the creation of the well-oiled machine that is our COVID-19 vaccination operations,” said Dr. Madison. “I feel very grateful to have so many students, faculty and staff devote so much of their time and energy into this important endeavor.”
This month, in recognition of their ongoing commitment and hours supporting the vaccination effort, Roseman’s Top 40 volunteers – based on individual hours volunteered – were awarded the Nevada Governor’s Volunteer Service Award.
ROSEMAN’S EXPANDING REACH
While the on-campus vaccination PODs successfully administered vaccines to thousands of southern Nevadans, there was a need to reach underserved neighborhoods in the Las Vegas Valley, where transportation and other barriers were preventing people from getting to vaccination sites.
Partnering with the Southern Nevada Health District, Roseman volunteers administered vaccines at the Doolittle Community Center in the historic West Las Vegas neighborhood, and the Hollywood Recreation and Whitney Community centers in the far eastside of Las Vegas.
In the spring, other community organizations enlisted the help of Roseman and its volunteers to offer vaccinations. These included The Center, Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment & Research, East Valley Family Services, Nevada Partners, and the Huntridge Family Clinic.
THE HESITANCY CHALLENGE
While the logistics of getting vaccines in the arms of southern Nevadans were quickly developed and implemented, the most pressing challenge for Roseman and state officials was and continues to be combating vaccine hesitancy. Misinformation, rumors, and fear have resulted in a large portion of the population declining vaccination. Dr. Madison says, “In order to achieve herd immunity we need about 80 percent of the population.”
To combat hesitancy, Roseman has been proactive in working with the media to help report accurate information, with Dr. Madison, Dr. David Rawlins and Dr. Manas Mandal frequently sharing the latest vaccine developments with reporters and producers.
“It’s important for the public to know the facts,” said Dr. Madison. “Data on vaccine safety and efficacy, as well as how collective vaccination can lead to the end of the pandemic, is important for the public to understand. It’s incredibly challenging when there is so much noise surrounding vaccinations.”
In March, Roseman worked with NBA Hall of Famer and Olympic Gold Medalist Spencer Haywood to promote vaccination within the African American community. Haywood received his vaccinations at Roseman’s Summerlin campus with news cameras there to witness.
ROSEMAN’S UTAH STUDENTS AND FACULTY VOLUNTEER IN DAVIS COUNTY
In Utah, led by Dr. Catherine Cone, Assistant Dean for Assessment in the College of Pharmacy, two faculty and three students volunteer three days each week to help administer COVID-19 vaccinations in Davis County, just north of Salt Lake City. The College of Nursing joins the effort one day a week with two faculty and between nine and 12 students. College of Dental Medicine students will be joining soon. The Roseman volunteers currently work three lanes at the Davis County Legacy Events Center drive-thru vaccination clinic that serves between 2,300 and 2,500 per day.
“The Davis County vaccination clinic runs very smoothly,” said Dr. Cone. “We’ve been volunteering at the site since February and will continue into the summer. By the end, I estimate our volunteers will have vaccinated more than 10,000 Utahans.”
THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Throughout the year, Roseman’s vaccination efforts have offered a valuable, hands-on experience for Roseman students. “Not only have students had the chance to give quite a few vaccination injections, but they have also had the chance to discuss a patient’s medical history as it relates to the vaccine and do a lot of patient teaching about COVID-19, the vaccination, and what they can expect from the vaccination in terms of side effects,” said Dr. Delos Jones, College of Nursing’s Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Learning Innovation. “Pharmacy and nursing students have had the chance to work side by side with faculty in a true interprofessional team effort to get the population vaccinated. It is an experience that does not come up very often and students have really enjoyed working with such a diverse group of people.”
Roseman University President Dr. Renee Coffman added, “I’m extremely proud that Roseman has been able to have this ongoing impact on the Southern Nevada and Utah communities. It has been the embodiment of our mission to ‘advance the health and wellness’ of the communities that we serve and other than educating and training the next generation of healthcare professionals, is probably one of the most important things that we have done as an institution.”
“The experience was wonderful and to see my fellow co-workers offer their time to vaccinate the public showed how much our school cares about the health of our community.” – Jackie Seip, Executive Assistant to the President
“Service, including service to the community, is a basic tenant of most clinical faculty positions. As such, I am always on the lookout for opportunities to give back to the community. It was great to know that I had a skill set that was in demand, and I was being encouraged to utilize these skills to help my co-workers and neighbors.” – Dr. Evan Williams, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice
“It was very heartwarming to hear how the vaccine would positively impact so many people’s lives.” – Sally Mickelson, Director of Financial Aid
“It is truly amazing how in 20-30 years when future generations ask me about my Covid-19 experience, I can proudly say I administered over 300 vaccines.” – Gabrielle Hidalgo, Student Nurse
“I want to help reach our target of herd immunity here in Nevada and increase community confidence in COVID-19 vaccines. I wanted to show my friends, families, colleagues, and communities via social media that I’m volunteering at the vaccine clinic and sharing beliefs about the COVID-19 vaccinations. Getting vaccinated will help all of us and protect us from COVID-19 infections and deaths.” – Marife Aczon-Armstrong, Assistant Professor of Nursing
“The experience was extremely rewarding; getting to vaccinate at the first PODs, the elderly who had higher death rates, it was humbling to see the gratitude in their faces and for them to tell me about how much safer they feel with the vaccinations.” – Dr. Alana Whittaker, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice
“I have done a lot of volunteer work in the past and this was an opportunity to continue my volunteer work. I had a great time working with the crew we assembled from students, employees, spouses and anyone we could get involved in the Project.” – David Smith, Helpdesk Technician II
“The experience was beyond rewarding. I volunteered in the check in, vaccinator and data entry stations because I knew being a volunteer, I should be able to do multiple tasks in case there was a shortage. Due to the pandemic, I haven’t had the opportunity to engage with my peers and other professors, so I looked forward to it on a weekly basis.” – Rena Labeaud-Howard, Student Pharmacist