MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. – Vehicles and large parking lots have proven to be saving graces in the COVID era. Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., has certainly made extensive use of them to ensure appropriate social distancing for its pharmacy operations and now has conducted its first drive-thru flu vaccination campaign.
Running the first week of December with a total of 1,500 patients vaccinated, it offered a solid initial drive-thru effort and was well-received.
“They’re all very happy because they don’t have to get out of the car,” said Col. Hengmo McCall, a public health nurse who was in charge of the operation, of the patients coming through for their immunization.
She pointed out further conveniences of the drive-thru method.
“They don’t have to worry about parking their vehicle or walking in the rain,” she said.
With ample space, multiple lanes and a large structure covering the ends of those lanes, the Arrival Departure Airfield Control Group building 1327, Troop Holding Area building 1330, proved an ideal setting for a drive-thru vaccination event.
In preparing the drive, planners considered how others in the surrounding community operate their drives.
She found the tables some used for supplies were too susceptible to wind. So, she chose to use metal carts with drawers to keep all supplies and paperwork safe from the weather, especially the wind. A DHA-approved cooler, on which hourly temperature checks were done, stored the vaccine.
“I would definitely recommend doing it here every year. Then people will get to know where it is,” she said.
Though the site was off the beaten path, the effort the team put into placing signage to the site proved highly useful. The bright orange signs along the side of the road that read simply “FLU” led traffic from McChord’s main gate right to the site.
McCall was also happy to have the well-appointed office building onsite. That allowed the staff a place to get something to drink or a snack that McCall provided personally, to use the facilities and to enter the patient information into MEDPROS and MHS GENESIS so their health records would be complete without delay. The patient was also given a card with proof of vaccination to put in their wallet.
John Holwege, the emergency manager at Madigan, was onsite ensuring the traffic was flowing as he had planned it out. Having worked for civilian healthcare operations that do drive-thru vaccinations, especially for staff, this was old hat to Holwege.
While this facility naturally lends itself well to this sort of operation, Holwege specifically flipped the original traffic flow plan to have vehicles enter the immunization point from the far end of the location instead of the front. His experience told him this approach would allow more space to get a heavy flow of lunch time traffic that could still be accommodated without getting backed up onto the surface street.
This approach also allowed more time for the screening process.
Garrison military police directed vehicles coming into the location to the approach lanes where 7th Infantry Division and 17th Field Artillery (Fires) Brigade Soldiers assisted participants in filling out the half-page screening form and verifying identity. The final stop was the Madigan vaccinator team of two medical professionals, both military and civilian, from a variety of clinics.
One of those two-person teams was Spc. Taylor Smith, a medic who works in the emergency room, and Spc. Megan Cuadrado who administers vaccinations frequently in the course of her usual duties at the Okubo Soldier-Centered Medical Home.
Smith appreciated that nice, steady flow of traffic.
“I really like this set up; it’s a smooth operation,” added Cuadrado. “Smith and I have it down to a little science.”
In most cases, the entire process only took as long as the time needed to fill out the form and put the needle in the arm.
Sgt. 1st Class Morgen Bickler, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Madigan Consolidated Education, noted that they’d seen a number of government license plates.
“People do it during the duty day. They come by, knock it out and they’re done,” he said.
The whole process worked for participants and administrators.
Staff Sgt. Sarah Bendyna, who works in aircraft maintenance with the Air Force, came through Smith and Cuadrado’s lane with her airman husband.
“This works well; you don’t even have to get out of the car,” she said.
Holwege pointed out that the flu drive provides an opportunity for base and hospital personnel to practice this sort of operation.
“This is a good exercise for the hospital and the entire garrison,” said Holwege.
He pointed out the commonality of these operations. A mass prophylaxis plan, like this, or as a response to a natural disaster, the collaboration among units across the base and the logistics are similar.
The drive-thru event was just one effort to get people vaccinated for influenza; Madigan’s Preventive Medicine and Army Public Health Nursing providers are determined to get as many patients immunized as possible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state, “Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever during 2020-2021 to protect yourself, your family and your community from flu. A flu vaccine this season can also help reduce the burden on our healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and save medical resources for care of COVID-19 patients.”
Though this event is over, there are still opportunities to get your flu shot.
Young patients and their families can be vaccinated at their daycare as Madigan will be visiting the Lewis North Children and Youth Service center on Monday, Dec. 7, from 3 to 7 p.m., the McChord CYS on Wednesday, Dec. 9, from 3 to 7 p.m. and the Cascade CYS on Thursday, Dec. 10, from 3 to 7 p.m.
Also, patients are always welcome to receive their shot at a regular appointment. If your nurse or provider does not ask you at your next visit if you’d like a flu shot, ask them for one.
Keep an eye on Madigan’s official Facebook page for information on on-base options, to include drive-thru and CYS events, by visiting: https://www.facebook.com/MadiganHealth/ or Madigan’s website at: https://madigan.tricare.mil. Watch a video with Madigan’s chief of Preventive Medicine, Lt. Col. (Dr.) Luke Mease on flu vaccine info here: https://www.facebook.com/MadiganHealth/videos/1582192658619456.
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