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YNHHS staff have vaccinated thousands of members of the public against COVID-19 at community clinics throughout Connecticut, including this one, at New Haven’s Floyd Little Athletic Center. In addition to employees who prepared and administered the shots, staff from many different departments ensured the sites had the necessary supplies, technology and security.

Above: Darlene Tempesta, RN, Phototherapy Treatment Center, gave Hilda Williams her first COVID-19 shot.


YNHHS employees arm community members against COVID-19

When COVID-19 began racing toward Connecticut last winter, departments throughout Yale New Haven Health mobilized quickly to get the health system ready. A year later, YNHHS again responded to an immediate, COVID-related need with record speed. 

In January, state officials asked healthcare organizations to help vaccinate members of the public as part of phase 1b of Connecticut’s COVID vaccination program. Between Jan. 22 and 27, YNHHS opened eight community COVID-19 vaccination clinics across the state. Within a few days, these clinics had vaccinated more than 4,000 people 75 and older. Since then, more clinics have opened and the number of people vaccinated keeps growing.

“This has been a huge effort,” said Kyle Ballou, vice president, YNHHS Community and Government Relations. “Planning, launching and operating these clinics has involved staff members from clinical and non-clinical departments throughout the health system.” 

Ballou is among the leaders and staff from various YNHHS departments serving on a task force to oversee different aspects of the public vaccine rollout. 

One of the task force’s first steps was finding centrally located facilities for vaccination clinics that were spacious enough to accommodate a lot people, with social distancing. A number of clinics are at Northeast Medical Group offices; others are at schools and community centers throughout Connecticut. Before they could open, the sites needed furniture, supplies and equipment, such as computers, and refrigerators for vaccine storage. 

With physician offices receiving numerous inquiries from the public, the task force also had to develop procedures and mechanisms quickly for vaccine-eligible YNHHS patients to make appointments, by calling one main number or signing up online. 

Staffing the vaccination clinics has been an enormous task, with dozens of people needed at each clinic daily, including weekends. Working with Human Resources and other departments, the vaccine task force developed a way for people to sign up to staff the clinics, get trained, and volunteer or receive compensation for their work. Dubbed the “Crush COVID Crew,” clinic staff include clinicians licensed to prepare and administer vaccine doses, and non-clinical people who greet and prescreen patients and serve in other roles. Many YNHHS employees have volunteered for the vaccination effort; the health system welcomes community volunteers, also. To learn more about helping at vaccination clinics, visit the employee intranet.

Launching community vaccination clinics in such a tight timeframe was challenging, but YNHHS had some practice, after reconfiguring its employee flu vaccination operations to accommodate social distancing and using that experience to run employee COVID-19 vaccination clinics. 

“These vaccination efforts require the expertise and hard work of many people throughout the health system,” said Thomas Balcezak, MD, YNHHS chief clinical officer. “As always, I am immensely proud and grateful to work with you all, who continue to show great distinction, empathy, and professionalism as we navigate this last, most intense phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

 

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Signs welcomed community members to the Floyd Little Athletic Center, at Hillhouse High School.

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Marjorie Wheeden struck a pose after receiving her first dose.

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Rosa Rodriguez, RN, Occupational Health, administered the vaccine to Antonia Theodes.

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Soni Clubb, MD, vaccinated Henry James.