BY ALEEN ARSLANIAN
Committed to serving the local communities, Los Angeles’ CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center has been designated as the first, and currently only, hospital-based drive-through vaccination point of dispensing site for COVID-19 vaccines in the County of Los Angeles. Individuals who meet the eligibility criteria can now receive the Pfizer vaccine at the Medical Center’s drive-through vaccination clinic.
Eligible Angelinos who are interested in receiving a dose of the vaccine can make an appointment online. More appointments will be made available as the Medical Center receives more vaccines from the County.
The drive-through vaccination clinic, which was installed on Thursday, January 28, is manned by CHA HPMC’s doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners who vaccinate around 80 patients per hour. With various stations placed throughout the parking garage, receiving a vaccine at the Medical Center is an overall fast, smooth process. The installed stations include: the check-in/registration area, the vaccination preparation area, the mass-vaccination POD, and an observation area.
Director of Acute Care Services Ron Thorstensen, who has been preparing vaccines since last week, said that the pharmacy receives the supply from the county, stores it, and later distributes the vaccine to the preparation station, on an as-needed basis. As he mixed and drew vaccines with Director of Education Department Lourdes Casao, he noted that the Medical Center does not allow any vaccines to go to waste. “At the end of the day if we have extra doses, we have to try to figure out how we’re going to get those doses into people’s arms,” he said.
The Medical Center has designated two lanes for individuals to check-in, and four lanes for vaccination and observation in the parking garage. At the registration station, individuals checking-in to the drive-through vaccination clinic are heavily monitored in order to verify that they meet the eligibility criteria. According to Ray Hahn, Global Chief Operating Officer at CHA Health Systems, staff have had to turn away “at least 10 percent of people who show up.” He noted that letters from employees do not determine eligibility.
After receiving a dose, individuals are asked to wait for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on their medical history, in the observation area. Individuals with severe allergies are typically monitored for 30 minutes. Angelica, a nurse at CHA HPMC who has been stationed at the POD since last Thursday, said that there have been no adverse reactions. “I’ve heard people coming in for their second dose say that they had body aches or chills, but that’s completely normal,” she said. An estimated 500 to 600 people are currently receiving the vaccine at the POD per day.
According to Hahn, a hospital is the “absolute safest place to be vaccinated.” If and when an individual has an adverse reaction, not only are there nurses, nurse practitioners, and doctors on site, but an emergency room, as well. “We are prepared for anything, even a severe allergic reaction,” said Hahn. Individuals vaccinated at CHA HPMC’s drive-through vaccination clinic are given an immunization card with a date for a second dose, a location, and time.
Stressing the importance of the second dose, CHA HPMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rohit Varma said, “If you want to get to 95 percent efficacy, then you need to get the second dose. With only the one dose you get around 50 percent efficacy.” According to Dr. Varma, when receiving your second dose, it’s best to get vaccinated with the same type of vaccine administered during your first dose. “We don’t have any good evidence for what happens when you mix and match [different types of vaccines],” said Dr. Varma.
CHA HPMC provides individuals waiting in their cars with both snacks and water. They have also placed a number of large heaters throughout the parking garage to provide warmth for staff and individuals receiving vaccines. The Medical Center’s drive-through vaccination clinic offers community members the convenience of being vaccinated while in their own cars, where they are isolated from non-family members until they receive a shot. For high-risk individuals, Dr. Varma noted that a drive-through vaccination clinic is a “better option” than a walk-in clinic, where they can potentially be exposed to the virus.
Community members receiving vaccines at CHA HPMC’s drive-through vaccination clinic have been “overjoyed,” according to Hahn, who emphasized that the Medical Center is looking “at ways to outreach to the underserved. For those who may not have ready access to computers, who may not be refreshing their screens every two seconds. We’re really putting our heads together on serving the underserved in the East Hollywood and the Hollywood community.”
According to Dr. Varma, the vaccine is our “best chance” at reducing the death and suffering caused by COVID-19. “[Individuals should get vaccinated] because it reduces the burden of the pandemic within the community, reduces the amount of people that get admitted into hospitals, reduces the amount of death. Overall, it’s critically important. In the long run it’s important, because we want to achieve herd immunity, which means that the overall pandemic will then die down. Which is where we want to be, because we want our schools open, we want to be able to do things like go to games, see movies, and interact with others. Zoom is great, but it’s not the same as having interactions with people face-to-face,” concluded Dr. Varma.