For city Senior Life Director Laura Brondos, time was of the essence.
At around 11 a.m. Jan. 26, she received a call from a contact at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health asking her if she could round up 60 Fairview Park seniors age 80 and over for a round of COVID-19 vaccinations. Brondos had plenty of names on file, but the tricky part was going to be contacting as many as possible, while also getting everyone on schedule in just under six hours.
The senior center, 20769 Lorain Road, has remained closed to visitors due to the pandemic since November but had the necessary space to keep people socially distanced while they were receiving doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. With the infrastructure in place to host a pop-up clinic, the true test would be putting a schedule together.
“My contact at the CCBH called me because they were doing a vaccine clinic at a nearby assisted-living facility, and they had about 60 extra vaccines,” Brondos said of the hectic day. “I just got on the phone and started making calls, and this clinic started at 5 p.m., and it was 11 a.m. when he called me.”
Brondos broke up the event into three one-hour intervals. Interested recipients could schedule their appointments between 5 and 6 p.m., 6 and 7 p.m., or 7 and 8 p.m. Most picked the first hour to avoid driving at night.
But most importantly, Brondos was able to get the word out fast. Within a short time, she had 60 seniors signed up.
“It was very interesting, because I’d made some calls, and it was funny because all the seniors talk to each other,” she said. “I made about five phone calls, then all of a sudden my phone was ringing because they’d heard we’d be getting the vaccine...They were calling each other and spreading the word. It didn’t take that long. I was totally amazed.”
Making the event even more urgent was the nature of the vaccine itself. Once brought out of freezer storage and mixed with a diluent, the vaccine can only be stored at room temperature for about six hours. Unmixed, it can be stored for up to 120 hours in a refrigerator that stays between 36 and 46 degrees.
In this case, the board of health would have had to discard the vaccines if they weren’t all used by the time they left Fairview Park.
The board’s three-member team set up shop in the senior center’s large dining room, with tables placed in a socially distanced way so that recipients could sit and fill out their paperwork. Senior center staff assigned numbers to each participant, who would wait at their table until they were called up to receive their shot. Because of the time and temperature-sensitive nature of the vaccine, syringes were prepped on the spot by the board of health staffers.
Once a shot was administered, each senior had to head back to their table and wait 15 minutes before they could leave.
Given the speed at which everything came together, Brondos was thrilled at how efficiently the event came off. To date, she hasn’t received additional information on more vaccines being made available at the senior center.
“I’m open to doing this again,” she said. “I don’t know if it will happen again, but if it does I’d gladly welcome it.”
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