Local Vaccine Center Impresses in its Operation
MAUMEE - Ohio -- When I arrived at the Lucas County [Ohio] Recreation Center on Feb. 17 at the pre-appointed time for the first of my two COVID vaccine shots, the parking lot was overflowing so I expected chaos and a long wait.
What I found was the opposite.
In a well-worn exhibition hall the size of three football fields, an operation with military precision hummed along. I was told the vaccination center was a joint effort of Mercy Health System and the Lucas County Health Department.
People in wheelchairs and others with disabilities were helped by some of the employees to a separate area to facilitate their vaccine process. Some of the staff were volunteers but the majority were either Mercy or health department employees. If there were 300 people present for vaccine shots, there has to be another 100 working in various capacities.
A pleasant greeter sent me to the first line, where about 50 seniors – all masked – moved quietly forward. I thought it would take at least 15 minutes to reach the initial registration desk. It took less than five.
There were around 10 stations set up where you showed your driver’s license, which a friendly clerk used to verify my appointment. It was a quick process.
At the next station, divided into five sections according to your last name, I picked up a registration and health status form. Another friendly worker patiently went over the form with me, explaining what was what, and asked me to sign it, which I did.
Next up was the vaccine shot, which were being administered at around 20 picnic-sized tables that occupied the middle of the hall. Again, I only waited around five minutes before a nurse waved me to her station.
The nurse, from Mercy Health [I’ll call her Pam], was joined by several colleagues who made up that station’s team. Like everyone else, she was friendly and helpful, explaining what was going to happen.
She went over my form with me making sure I was not sick with COVID or anything else and whether I was allergic to anything that might cause problems once I had the shot.
“Which arm,” Pam asked.
“Left,” I said.
Up went the sleeve and Pam administered a quick poke that barely registered on the pain meter.
When she was finished and was applying a band aid to my arm, I remarked that I was impressed with the operation – I had only been there 15 minutes and I was done.
“Who’s running this?” I asked
“My boss, Dave Wellons,” Pam said. “He is just an amazing person.”
Not something you hear every day.
Pam sent me to the last section – a holding area where we were asked to sit for 15 minutes in case any health issues emerged. There were about 50 chairs there – many of them filled. A nurse patrolled the area.
I became a bit nauseous and flagged the nurse. She asked me a few questions and handed me a bottle of water. I waited an extra 15 minutes, felt fine and prepared to leave.
But first I wanted to find Pam’s boss.
It took a while but I met Dave Wellons, director of Patient Care at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, a position he’s held since 2003. He was masked, obviously busy but polite and curious – likely wondering if I had a complaint.
I quickly put him at ease by telling him how impressed I was with the efficiency of his operation as well as the courteous manners and expertise of his staff.
He thanked me and said: “It’s a huge undertaking. But I am committed to doing all I can to make it work. It’s vital we get it right.”
And then he was off.
I returned three weeks to the day – on March 10 – for my second Pfizer shot. As before, the vaccine center hummed along. I was in and out in 30 minutes.
On March 24, the center announced it had administered an extraordinary 5,500 vaccines in a single a day – a record.
All over northwest Ohio, the state and the country, similar operations are in play. As of March 25, around 130 million vaccine doses had been administered in the United States.
I can’t speak to the efficiency of those operations. But I can say with certainty from what I saw at the Lucas County Recreation Center vaccination clinic: No matter the challenge, when you have the right people in charge and they have the right team working with them, anything is possible. Even the seemingly impossible.
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