When COVID-19 vaccine availability and eligibility expanded rapidly at the start of 2021, states and local authorities quickly scrambled to ensure they had sufficient capacity to administer the vaccines. Authorities needed to balance their share of allocated vaccine supply with the expected surge in public demand without experiencing serious vaccine administration disarray or delays.
California began its rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine by first making it available to designated residents, including seniors and essential healthcare workers. While this initial distribution was welcome news to California residents with higher risks for severe complications, the immediacy of vaccine distribution presented serious operational challenges to the county officials and healthcare providers ultimately responsible for vaccine administration.
One of California’s leading health systems responded to this unprecedented vaccine delivery challenge by establishing nine new mass vaccination centers in just four weeks. The strategies deployed during this rapid, massive vaccine capacity expansion may be useful to other healthcare organizations encountering similar large-scale public health demands.
A rigorous, planned approach
Once the COVID-19 vaccine became available for administration, the health system mobilized vaccine administration sites within designated care centers, becoming one of the first healthcare providers in California to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to patients. From this initial rollout, however, it quickly became apparent the system’s own clinic capacity would be insufficient to meet patient demand and the aggressive vaccination rollout timeline.
In response, the organization moved to quickly establish mass vaccination centers in centrally located facilities throughout its service area, spanning more than 100 California communities. Foremost was accomplishing this work as rapidly, effectively, and safely as possible. As the health system moved to procure sufficient space and scale up for mass vaccine administration, four key areas proved critical to the organization’s success:
- Site selection: Potential mass vaccination sites needed to be easily accessible and large enough to potentially accommodate thousands of patients per day. The team researched potential space options across its service territory among event centers, large hotels, and colleges able to meet requirements for patient access and safety and site feasibility. Ultimately, the system identified nine suitable mass vaccination sites across its coverage area, covering an approximate 150-mile radius.
- Program management: The health system needed to simultaneously create nine new fully staffed and equipped clinics within a month. This required significant program management expertise to execute effectively. The organization deployed a novel dual program management structure that included an operations project manager partnered with a facilities project manager for each targeted geographical site. This tight partnership structure enabled each geographic team to leverage its expertise, activate resources quickly, and efficiently divide tasks.
- A dashboard management tool: For the mass vaccine centers to succeed, communication would be crucial, particularly within the health system and between the system and state authorities responsible for weekly vaccine supply distributions. The system created a mass vaccination dashboard tracker, providing stakeholder insight into the new planned sites, forecasted volume, and administration progress. Multiple teams within the health system, from security to credentialing to pharmacy, all needed to be aligned with resources and task timing.
A calculator built into the health system’s dashboard helped to determine current vaccination volumes versus live capacity and future planned capacity. These calculations proved instrumental in the health system’s discussions with officials regarding state-determined vaccine allotments.
- A mass vaccine administration playbook: The organization leveraged its extensive prior experience in setting up new clinics and medical office buildings to create a mass vaccination center playbook of checklists. This playbook enabled the health system to accelerate its openings of mass vaccination sites.
The system focused on standardizing key procedures to drive efficient and successful site deployment, relying on organizational best practices and tools which were modified to reflect the unique demands of a mass vaccination site. The team’s checklists covered key functional activities within contracting, design, facilities, operations, information systems, supply chain management, human resources, revenue cycle, communications, safety, quality, and finance.
A massive success
The opening of the nine mass vaccination centers in California, providing the capacity to deliver more than 200,000 shots per week, seven days a week, was accomplished within a single month. The system’s expanded vaccine administration capacity ensured safe and efficient vaccine delivery to California’s early eligibility recipients with the necessary velocity to vaccinate other community members as the state’s eligibility guidelines expanded. The organization’s extensive experience in program management and clinical deployment also proved instrumental to the success of the mass vaccine center rollout.