COVID-19: The drive-thru difference
What a difference a drive-thru experience makes in the battle of COVID-19.
On Jan. 13, about 110 people rolled through a drive-thru vaccine clinic at the Steele County Public Works Building in Owatonna in an effort to prevent contracting the coronavirus, a deadly killer that has taken thousands of lives in Minnesota alone.
Most of the people vaccinated were staff members from assisted living facilities and group homes as well as home healthcare aides, first responders and other healthcare workers. They never left their vehicles as public health workers came up to the window and administered the COVID shot.
As the clinic was nearing the end, Connie Wocelka, who works at Youngdahl Living in Owatonna as a mental health professional, came through with a co-worker, Barb Combs. “They saved the best for last,” Wocelka said with a chuckle. “Two oldies, but goodies.”
For Wocelka, getting vaccinated comes as a dual purpose. In addition to getting vaccinated for her job, she is also a guardian for her adult son, Jon, who suffers from a traumatic brain injury. “With Jon’s health risk, it’s much better and safer to get vaccinated,” she said.
Wocelka didn’t let any controversy surrounding the vaccinations get in the way of taking the shot. “You get so many different opinions about it,” she said. “Life is a risk, isn’t it?”
Combs became ecstatic upon finding out she could get the vaccination. “When I got the news we could come out here, I was doing the happy dance,” Combs said. “I would advocate for everybody to get it,” she said, adding she realizes everyone’s situation is different and some may not be able to for health reasons.
Both Combs and Wocelka said the key to getting the shot is relaxing the muscles. “It didn’t hurt,” Wocelka reassured. “You just felt a poke, just like when you get a flu shot,” she added.
Public Health Director Amy Caron led the effort along with her public health staff and a couple of volunteers. They had a total of five stations that people went through, all in the comfort of their vehicles, including prescreening, screening, vaccination, registration for state and waiting period.
Some of the prescreening questions include history of allergic reactions, whether person is currently ill due to COVID-19, exposure to other people with the virus and if they have received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of COVID treatment in the past 90 days.
All people were required to wait 15 minutes after getting the shot before they could leave so they could be monitored for allergic reactions. Although nobody had a reaction, Caron said there is a higher probability of people having some sort of reaction at their second shot. People will receive their second shot in 28 days after getting the first one.
This was the third drive-thru clinic in Steele County since the vaccination began arriving in late December. The first clinics were Dec. 30 and Jan. 5. Steele County is still giving shots to people classified in the first phase, mostly healthcare workers and police, fire and EMS workers.
Part of the challenge, Caron said, is that they never know from week to week how much vaccine they will receive. She said they usually find out on Fridays how much they will have for the following week and schedule clinics accordingly. They take reservations only and typically administer shots to three people every five minutes. The clinics are usually three hours long.
Caron assures the public that they are not sitting on any vaccine and none is being discarded. With 10 doses available in each vial of vaccine, Caron said once a vial is punctured it has to be used within a short period of time. If they run short of people registered, Public Health has a waiting list of people to call who live near by to get vaccinated so that it’s all used. “We have not wasted any vaccine,” she said.
Combs said she likes the way the clinic operated. “Steele County is really on the forefront of doing all these things. I am very impressed with the whole process. Who would of ever thought you could get COVID shots in a building with big equipment,” she said, referring to the county’s snowplow fleet parked in the Public Works Building.