The University began planning in 2018 to help during a public health emergency.
The work to vaccinate hundreds of non-clinical Jefferson students this spring started well before the pandemic.
In fact, a University team began in 2018 to develop the playbook for East Falls Campus to be a closed point of dispensing or POD. Through this partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Health, the University would be prepared to facilitate mass dispensing of medication to the Jefferson community during a public health emergency.
Of course, in the early stages, University representatives from public safety, student health services, facilities and public relations, as well as faculty and graduate students, were anticipating hypothetical scenarios. However, that all changed once the pandemic hit and the team pivoted to the eventual distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
They developed key components to the POD, including clinic locations, needed supplies, training, staffing responsibilities and more, says Stefanie Karp, director of public safety on East Falls Campus. Their work intensified over the fall 2020 semester as the promise of vaccine approval became closer to reality.
Under the guidance of Karp, three disaster medicine and management graduate students joined the team to provide additional support. They created an online form to schedule vaccination appointments, which the University tested through a pair of crucial fall flu clinics for faculty, staff and students. Here, the team used these live exercises to simulate distributing COVID vaccinations and test everything from sign-up to operational flow.
“This helped us perfect the process,” says Megan Grugan, director of student health services on East Falls Campus.
Over the next few months, the team fine-tuned the staffing, documentation, vaccine transportation and other logistics, such as refrigeration in portable coolers. The East Falls team also collaborated with their Center City Campus counterparts, including Jennifer Fogerty, associate provost of student affairs. She ran point on separate clinics where Jefferson’s patient-facing students received their vaccines.
These three years of prep work proved to be critical. The city gave the go-ahead for the East Falls closed POD to spring into action in April with just a few days’ notice.
“We already had ironed everything out,” Karp says. “We were waiting and chomping at the bit all semester to provide the vaccine.”
Approximately 650 students received their first and/or second dose of the Pfizer vaccine over eight East Falls clinics, she says. Plus, they left the Gallagher Center with a care package of snacks, ramen and Gatorade to soothe any side effects—a gesture much appreciated by Alexandra Friedberg.
“The staff was so warm and accommodating,” says the psychology-occupational therapy student. “There was no wait time, and health services made the vaccine easy and painless. It’s so crucial that we all get vaccinated for public health safety, and I’m so happy to see Jefferson facilitating that.”
Pre-medical studies student Minh Quan Nguyen also thanked the staff for their professionalism and dedication in keeping the University community protected against COVID. “They were so nice to me,” says Nguyen, who was in and out in about 30 minutes.
Nursing faculty and student health services nurses and nurse practitioners administered the vaccine on East Falls Campus. Student volunteers helped with check-in and played an important part in recruiting classmates who hadn’t formally signed up for the vaccine.
“If we thought we would have leftover, we walked around campus to recruit people,” Karp says. “One day, we had 31 walk-ins. That was all word of mouth by the students. We didn’t waste any doses.”
Jefferson will continue its work as a closed POD, Grugan says. That means the city can activate the University for any future public health emergencies—not just COVID—that require the distribution of vaccines, antivirals, antibiotics and more.
“We could serve as an added resource for them,” she says.
Reminder: Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination is due for students Aug. 1, 2021, unless noted by your program. Read more here.