Logistics Are Vital for Improving Patient Access to Vaccines

Pharmacist Toral Patel (seated at head of table) along with other faculty from University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences drawing up vaccine doses for COVID-19 vaccination clinics hosted by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

“We want to be prepared with the latest information about COVID vaccination for children as we are the often the most frequently encountered health care practitioners for many of the public,” said Toral Patel, PharmD, an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Colorado (CU) Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Patel has been supporting front line pharmacists vaccinating people at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus against COVID-19 in her essential behind-the-scenes role developing and organizing the logistics for getting the vaccines into arms.

Initially, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus hosted vaccine clinics for faculty, staff, and students in order to safely welcome students back to campus and resume classes in person. “We scheduled a number of clinics, and I helped organize and lead the vaccine preparation piece for the clinics,” said Patel. She organized volunteers, including pharmacists and students under faculty supervision, to prepare and draw up doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Making the vaccine readily accessible helped to encourage people to get the shot.

At the beginning of each day, at least 50 doses were prepared before the first appointment. Patel noticed that their daily stock of prepared vaccine doses was not always completely used. In response, “We started encouraging not just the people who worked here, but also their contacts to get vaccinated to avoid wasting vaccine,” she said. Since many CU faculty and staff have practiced at the various hospitals and health care facilities, people in these locations knew about the clinics and referred their patients.

“The biggest thing we learned was, especially at that time, people were signing up for the vaccine at multiple places; they signed up at their community pharmacy and also to get one with us,” said Patel. “Then they went to whichever appointment was most convenient for them but did not cancel the other appointments.” Convenience can make a difference to those who are uncertain about vaccination. Realizing that the number of people signing up was not an accurate reflection of how many showed up for their appointments, dose preparation was adjusted as patients arrived.

Practice Pearl

Pharmacists don’t need to be on the front lines to have an impact on vaccination rates. Handling the logistics for vaccination efforts is also vital to support patient care.

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The procedure for getting the vaccines ready involved an efficient process, said Patel. “We set people up to do one job. One person diluted the vaccine and another three drew them up [to minimize errors],” she said. A simple system was used to monitor the movement of vaccine doses. The team kept a running tally on a whiteboard to document the number of doses going out each time. The empty vials were saved to double check the inventory at the end of the day. Others were assigned to monitor the inventory levels and number of patients who presented for their appointments. The prep team would restock inventory from the second floor where doses were prepared and dispensed to professionals who were administering the vaccines at the clinic located on the first floor. “Since we were away from all the hustle and bustle of the clinic, we could concentrate on the work, allowing us to stick to our goal of minimizing waste to less than one COVID-19 vaccine vial each day,” said Patel.

Patel made sure that the vaccination clinic team was trained and she conducted daily briefings to evaluate how successfully the clinic ran. Daily briefings helped to continuously improve the process and keep things running efficiently.

In addition, Patel reached out for help from the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH). “UCH’s vaccination numbers were higher than ours,” she said. “They were gracious enough to show us how they were running their clinics, which helped us conceptualize things” to quickly set up the university’s vaccination efforts. Patel’s leadership facilitated over 8,200 vaccine doses given through the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center to protect people from COVID-19.

Learn more about how to Tailor Your Outreach and improve vaccine confidence.