BIG SPRING, TX — U.S. Army Veteran Randy Ferguson was among the first in line at West Texas VA Health Care System’s first COVID-19 drive-thru vaccination clinic. Braving 28-degree temperatures and heavy fog, Ferguson and about 100 WTVAHCS staff broached the early morning hours of Saturday Jan. 9, 2021 to begin the first offensive actions in putting the COVID-19 virus in the rearview mirror.
First in line
Veterans, scheduled to receive some of the first Moderna vaccinations available in the health care system, began lining up shortly after 6 a.m. eager to receive the vaccination.
“I talked to my doctor,” said U.S. Army retired Veteran Randy Ferguson. “He answered all my questions, and just like getting the flu shot every year, he recommended I get this vaccination.”
Ferguson was one of the first in line at the WTVAHCS first drive-thru vaccination clinic, having schedule his appointment days ahead of time. Driving to Big Spring, TX from San Angelo, TX to be among the first, Ferguson expressed his thanks to all the VA staff, not only for the ease and speed of the drive-thru clinic, but for the care he receives from the VA.
“Dr. Torres is the best doctor I’ve ever had,” said Ferguson. “I’m grateful for all that the VA does for me, and this clinic – I thank you for making it so easy.”
In total WTVAHCS scheduled more than 300 Veterans for this clinic and is scheduling future clinics through their COVID-19 vaccination hot line – 432-268-2465. Following CDC and VA guidelines, WTVAHCS has scheduled more than 1,000 appointments for Veterans – based on the projected allocations they expect to receive.
“Our goal is to vaccinate every Veteran who wants it,” said WTVAHCS Director Jason Cave. “As fast as we receive our allotments of the vaccination, we will be scheduling appointments.”
A team effort
WTVAHCS Pharmacy, nursing, health administration staff and others led the planning process for the drive-thru clinic, holding more than half a dozen drills to practice and refine the process over the preceding weeks. More than 100 staff members in all participated in the drive-thru clinic, directing traffic, pre-screening and checking Veterans in, giving the vaccination, documenting records, and even providing hot coffee – and the Veterans never exited their vehicles.
“We practiced every contingency we could think of,” said Chief of Pharmacy Dr. Larry Thompson. “We knew we had a big task ahead of us, and we owe it to our Veterans to make this as efficient and convenient as circumstances allow.”
Initial estimates for the drive-thru clinic showed that Veterans spent less than 20 minutes on the health care system campus to receive the vaccination, including the 15-minute observation period following receiving their shot.
WTVAHCS is one of 113 VA Medical Centers across the country to receive the first limited supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Sites were identified based on need for the vaccine according to CDC’s 1A prioritization and capacity to store the vaccine at -20?C.
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was 94 percent effective in clinical trials in preventing COVID-19 disease. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 28 days apart. The side effects appear similar to those of other vaccines and are short-lived.
Veterans can get up-to-date information on VA’s VA COVID-19 vaccine webpage, which launched on December 11, 2020, and sign up to receive regular updates on the vaccine on the VA’s Stay Informed page.
Photos by: Michael Cole, Public Affairs Officer, West Texas VA Health Care System, and U.S. Navy Veteran
(Photo – U.S. Army Veteran Randy Ferguson is among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccination at West Texas VA Health Care System’s first drive-thru vaccination clinic held Jan. 9, 2021 at the George H. O’Brien Jr, VA Medical Center in Big Spring, TX. Ferguson, a U.S. Army retiree, made the nearly 100-mile trek from San Angelo, TX to Big Spring, TX to receive the vaccination. Veterans can schedule their vaccination by calling the WTVAHCS COVID-19 Vaccination Hot Line at 432-268-2564.)
(Photo – Veterans with scheduled appointments began lining up for the West Texas VA Health Care System’s first drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. Veterans can schedule their vaccination by calling the WTVAHCS COVID-19 Vaccination Hot Line at 432-268-2564.)