Months of planning and drills involved to administer COVID-19 vaccine
Dr. Paston (center) talks to Geoff Beausoleil, manager of the NNSA Production Office, and Michelle Reichert, CNS president and chief executive officer, at the vaccination clinic.
After more than two months of seeking approval, planning, and preparation, Pantex began administering COVID‑19 vaccines on site February 2 to high‑risk employees; based on the feedback received, it has been an overwhelming success.
Dr. Michael Paston, Pantex occupational medical director said, “it was beautiful.”
“We worked with Emergency Management to develop a plan, then we drilled the plan last week,” said Don Morris, senior manager of Pantex Occupational Health Services. “We walked through the process several times to make sure the flow would work well, and we made a couple of adjustments.”
This type of emergency response vaccine distribution was more than a year in the making. In 2019, Pantex began collaborating with Amarillo Public Health to develop a point of distribution plan for national medical emergencies.
“In response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, that POD plan was evaluated for use to deliver vaccines and a vaccine plan attachment was developed,” said Daniel Gleaves, manager of Pantex Emergency Management.
In order better prepare and to see a vaccine setup first hand, OHS and EM staff met with Amarillo Public Health in January 2021 and walked through the city’s vaccine setup.
“We walked through their process and got some good takeaways from them. They shared their lessons learned with us,&38221; Morris said. “We made some adjustments, because we couldn’t use some of their suggestions based on the line of work we do.”
The staff conducted several drills to ensure the process ran smoothly.
“It went like clockwork, and we didn’t have to change anything,” Morris said.
“Leading up to today, the team used this year’s flu shot distribution to test the plan, conducted a tabletop drill, and held two separate dry runs in addition to just-in-time training for the staff to prepare for the POD,” Gleaves said.
In November 2020, Pantex began the process to obtain approval from the Texas Department of State Health Services to be able to receive and administer the COVID‑19 vaccine.
“Dr. Paston was our primary contact. He gathered information the state needed and submitted the forms to be reviewed by the state before they would certify us to be a vaccine provider,” Gleaves said.
The effort to receive the state’s approval was supported by many CNS groups, including Supply Chain Management; Information Solutions and Services; Management Assessment; OHS; Environmental Services; Environment, Safety, and Health; and Safeguards and Security. The NNSA Production Office also supported CNS’s efforts to obtain approval.
The vaccine administration began February 2 in the John C. Drummond Center Auditorium with a steady crowd of Pantexans receiving their first doses all day.
“We administered 243 on the first day, and it went swimmingly,” Paston said.
“Our plan was to thaw out 240 doses the first day, then adjust for the following days,” Morris said. “We ended up having a few extra doses, so we got people down to the auditorium to receive those so we didn’t have to store any,” Morris said.
“The first day’s turnout was in line with what we expected,” Gleaves said. “We realized that we can deliver many more vaccines than previously estimated. We had estimated that approximately 30 individuals can be vaccinated every hour, but based on the first day’s performance, it is now estimated we can deliver approximately 60 vaccines per hour.”
The initial order will provide more than 1,100 doses of the vaccine. “Either later this week or early next week, we expect to finish administering all we have and will reorder,” Morris said. “We’ll try to submit the reorder form before we run out.”
Dr. Paston also mentioned that they’ll be reordering the booster doses next week as well, so those will be available for employees to start receiving on February 23.
When asked how quickly the entire plant site, beyond those who are considered high risk, will have access to the vaccine, Paston said he sees that happening soon.
“We are going to go pretty quick because our workers fall into first responders, critical workers, etc.,” he said. “We follow the state of Texas’ rules and when Texas opens up the next phases, we will follow those phases as well.”