LITTLETON – When Littleton Regional Healthcare received the call Friday afternoon regarding 650 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine that needed to be used by the end of the day on Sunday, they immediately began operationalizing another weekend vaccination clinic to serve NH residents. This is the second time LRH has been notified by the State of New Hampshire of COVID-19 vaccines from other clinics that are nearing expiration. By offering these doses to LRH, the State of New Hampshire continues to do a good job reallocating vaccine around the state as necessary to ensure no doses are wasted unnecessarily. Due to precise storage and handling guidelines currently in place for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the countdown is on once the vaccines begin thawing from a deep freeze.
While LRH was in the midst of planning for Sunday’s clinic, they received yet another call from the State about an additional 348 doses set to expire Monday morning. Without hesitation, LRH accepted the added doses and quickly began preparing for the vaccination of over 1,000 individuals – LRH’s largest single-day clinic yet. Due to their responsiveness to unanticipated doses becoming available, Littleton Regional Healthcare has become the State’s go-to hospital when there’s a surplus of doses and the clock is ticking. Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of LRH, Dr. Edward Duffy, notes, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to secure extra doses of the vaccine. Expediting Phase 1B means we are one step closer to administering vaccines to subsequent phases and the general public. The vaccine is our most effective tool is combatting the COVID-19 pandemic so the more people vaccinated, the better.”
Staffing the vaccination clinics have never been a problem. The first step after accepting the doses is a hospital-wide email to staff asking who would be willing to work the clinic. The response from staff is always overwhelming positive, with more volunteers than what is needed. Robert Nutter, President and Chief Executive Officer of LRH, states, “We had more than enough staff within 30 minutes of the initial email being sent. Our workforce is always willing to go above and beyond, and honored to be part of these vaccination clinics. I am incredibly proud of everyone at LRH and their eagerness to support these mass vaccination events.”
Careful planning and execution is the key to a successful vaccination event. To begin, LRH contacted the individuals that remained from the January system scheduling error. If any of the individuals on that list had yet to be vaccinated, they were invited to attend Sunday’s clinic. LRH released the news of the weekend clinic to the public on Saturday morning. Word traveled quickly to all parts of New Hampshire, with qualifying residents coming from as far as Pittsburg and Manchester to receive the vaccine.
With Littleton Fire Rescue’s help, the 1,000+ doses of the COVID-19 vaccine made their journey north along Interstate 93 and were safely delivered to LRH late Saturday evening. Early Sunday morning, vaccine administration began. LRH was able to accommodate almost everyone affected by the January cancellations, with the exception of those who were unable to attend on Sunday. By 10am, the clinic had opened to anyone eligible to receive the dose in Phase 1B and over 700 doses had been administered by noon. The 45 LRH staff members working the clinic were all busy greeting, screening, directing, vaccinating, and monitoring the, at times, four lanes of vehicles.
Even with careful planning, the exact final amount of vaccine doses available is unknown until the vials are prepared for use. Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Patient Care Services at LRH, Koren Superchi, shared, “We have been fortunate to extract an extra dose or even two from each vial which results in more vaccine available for distribution. At this scale, an extra dose or two per vial equates to hundreds of extra doses which makes planning often last minute.”
By 5pm on Sunday, nearly 1,200 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been given with not a single dose wasted. “We’ve always said that we will not let doses of the vaccine go to waste. We pursued every avenue to ensure every dose was accounted for by calling people who were originally scheduled for March and April and asking if they wanted to be vaccinated sooner,” added Superchi.
Even with the short notice, LRH successfully assembled and completed their largest vaccination clinic to date with the help of our local emergency services. Littleton Police Department was on-site throughout the day to provide support and facilitate traffic control as needed. Littleton Regional Healthcare stands ready should they have the opportunity to host another mass vaccination clinic. They will welcome the individuals from Sunday’s clinic back in three weeks for their second dose of the vaccine.