Experiences at COVID vaccination sites

I’m interested in people’s experiences both with working or volunteering at vaccination sites, and experiences receiving vaccinations at those sites. I’m mostly interested in the big mass vaccination sites, and how they were run, but others could be interesting too.

I volunteered for the first time at a clinic in my area. I registered to volunteer through three different entities several months ago. At the time, they didn’t need any more volunteers. I finally heard back from one of them, and tried to follow the finalizing steps (which I couldn’t do until invited). It was a mess, and I was not happy about having to work on straightening it out. Then, I was contacted by another group I had been preparing to volunteer with before COVID hit. I hadn’t been able to continue, because in person training was required, and it’s all suspended. They asked if I was interested in volunteering for their mass vaccination clinics.

So, I helped at a drive-through clinic targeted toward under-served people. It was very well done, I thought. We were very busy for a while serving people with appointments. Toward the end, it slowed down, and they put out a sign on the sidewalk for people to just drive in, spur of the moment. We had a steady stream for the rest of the time we were open. The last person I helped vaccinate was someone who was terrified of getting a shot. They said a couple times that they might leave, but made it through. The vaccinator I was working with was very good, so I think the person was no more traumatized than necessary.

Toronto, the first Monday of April. It was one of the 4 centers set up by the Ontario Ministry of Health around the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). I went to the one at the Metro Convention Center, a large facility just north of the lakefront and pretty much in the middle of downtown. This was the third week that these clinics had been operating, and the government had just lowered the age range to 60+ on Wednesday the previous week.

I made an appointment online on Thursday, the first time slot available the next Monday was 12:24 PM. I had no problems with the online booking process.

I drove to the Convention Center, about a 15 minute drive, and they had excellent signage, plus attendants, in the parking garage, plus about half of one level of the parking garage reserved for vaccine appointments. These were on the first sub-level so it was one short flight of stairs and about a 100 meter walk to the entrance to the clinic. There were paramedics, and a parked ambulance just outside. The paramedics were asking the arrivals what time our appointments were for, and did we have our health cards. Despite being about 25 minutes early, I was told to get in line. There were maybe 15 people ahead of me. This was still outside, under a glass roofed area, and it was a nice warm day.

I got inside after maybe 4 or 5 minute in line, and showed my health card to a young woman with a hand-held scanner, it took about 3 seconds for the unit to display my name and appointment time. There were 4 people with the scanners so with the relatively light volume the process took maybe another minute. The next queue snaked back an forth with those fabric belt dividers on stands, leading to 6 stations, 3 per side, where our health cards were scanned again and we were given clipboards with consent forms, and a ballpoint pen. After this another snaking queue to give us time to shuffle forward and check the boxes.

At the next checkpoint, again with 6 stations, 3 per side, another person looked over the consent forms and passed us on. After this, another queue, at the start of which we were asked to remove the form and information sheet and hand over the clipboards and pens. There was another person there disinfecting these. This next queue was longer, and led to the central area of the room where there were some 60 tables set up for the actual vaccination. All told at this point the elapsed time since I arrived was about 12 minutes.

There was another paramedic at the end of this final queue who directed each of us to one of the vaccination stations as they became free. I was in the queue for maybe another 4 minutes and then was sent to one of the stations. The nurse on duty did a final check of my consent form, had me roll up my sleeve, did the jab and applied a bandage. The syringe came with a slip of paper that had a bar code, and a space on which she’d marked the current time plus 15 minutes. The time she marked was 12:28, 4 minutes past when my appointment had actually been for. She gave the slip to me and directed me to the adjacent area with about 100 chairs spaced out in wide rows.

After my 15 minutes were up, I went to the final checkpoint where I gave them the slip, and they printed out a small form for me with the details of vaccine, and gave me a sticker. I got an email with a PDF attachment with the same form about 3 minutes later.

On my way out of the garage, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the parking fees were being waived for vaccine recipients.

My experience was similar to yours, except in a rural area outside Toronto, so the main difference was no parking issues, just a large parking lot outside a big community centre. But all the staff, whether volunteers or whatever, were well organized, friendly, and efficient. I was impressed to discover after the fact – on the vaccine information slip – that the person who administered the vaccine, who I thought was probably a paramedic, was actually a doctor. Anyway, the whole thing was very efficient, and I was in and out in less than half an hour including the 15-minute post-vaccine waiting time.

I’ll just quote my post from elsewhere.

I went to a place set up next to a local hospital. It was well done. I get sent a text and email reminder of my appointment, the line wasn’t very long, and the processing and the shot took less time than the 15 minute wait time afterwards. Good signage also. My second shot was on the weekend, and was a drive through at the same place. Also highly efficient, with ample parking to wait my 15 minutes.

I did drive-through the first time, by one of the hospitals here. It went smoothly and they had helpers galore so once you were in the correct line you just followed the car ahead of you. First they verified your info, then you went across the street and were given your shot, your vaccination card and a lollipop. At the same time they wrote what time your shot was on your windshield.

Then you made a big turn and crept along, being told to honk if you need medical assistance.

At the exit the time was wiped off, you got a handful of info and a sticker.

The second was inside - the heat , you know - and after being signed in you went to a gymnasium, sat down while you confirmed allergies, etc., then went to a different station for a shot and a,lollipop then sat in a chair for 15 minutes - this time you had a sticker on your shirt - and when you left you got another sticker. This was at a public park and parking was a breeze.

All in all very efficient and the staff was mostly helpful and cheerful and thanked us for getting vaccinated.

And I scored two lollipops.

I had difficulty booking the appointment on line, but my neighbour got me booked with no problem. They converted the agriplex at the fair grounds, a big facility. They insisted no one turn up more than ten minutes before appointment time to avoid crowds. I had to complete the form when I arrived, as our printer is broken, but that was easily accommodated, didn’t even slow things down. I am a person who needs to lie down for my shot, so I don’t fall down. No problem, they had thought of everything. Once given the shot they noted the time fifteen minutes away, on a sticker, sent to a waiting room with a tv, spaced chairs, a digital clock and a security guy to make sure you didn’t leave early, even a hard copy receipt if you needed more than the digital one, that arrived moments after the shot, on your device. Left with the second shot appointment, same location, same time, two months from now.

Pretty efficient, no cost to park or for the shot, everything went smoothly and swiftly, out in under thirty minutes.

Has a sore, itchy arm and was crazy weary for just under two days. All in all, pretty simple.

Well, that’s interesting, since I note that you’re in Ontario, as am I. Things must be changing rapidly. When I booked my appointments about a month ago, it was necessary to book both at the same time, and the second one was more than 3½ months later (early August for me). There was some rumour about the second one possibly being rebooked earlier if enough vaccine was available, but that has not happened (yet). I’m not that concerned about it but I would be happy to get the second shot sooner and get it over with. Anyway, I’m just barely more than a week past the first one.

This is how it was done at the mass vaccination site I got my shots at. There was a little chart I saw the vaccinator look at, taped to the table, with the time addition on it.

The place I volunteered did something I thought was clever, which was to just have a clock at each vaccination station that was set 15 minutes ahead. So you just wrote down the time on the clock. (On the windshield.) Then you only have to calculate on the very rare occasion that someone needed to stay for 30 minutes.

Mine was around 1.5 hours away from my metro area in a small town of a few thousand people, at a decent sized clinic. They used signage to make the parking entrance and exit one way (like a loop) to reduce congestion. On entrance, your car was guided to a little covered area with two people who were handing out paperwork and giving instructions (park your car, fill out paperwork, THEN exit car and go inside with paperwork, ID, insurance card if you have it.

Once inside, there were three rooms, a large lobby in the middle, with two decent sized rooms on either side. They had markers on the floor to keep any line spaced out, but there was little line to speak of, as they were taking the forms and information and almost immediately taking people to socially distanced chairs spread around the outside edge of the lobby as well as the two side rooms. The stations were numbered and I think there were around 25-26. At each station, they had a kitchen timer behind you (on the wall or table, depending on where your seat was) and the person seating you set it for 15 minutes as well as asking you to bare an upper arm. They would then motion for the person doing the actual shots, who would come over, inject you and the Start button would be pressed on the timers. When the alarm went off, they would let you know that you were done and could safely leave, with an appointment on the back of your vaccine card for the same place 4 weeks later (Moderna).

At all times they had people watching over the room looking for issues and they were run so efficiently that I didn’t see a single person wait even a minute before getting the injection. My total time indoors the first shot was probably 20 minutes and only about 17 or so for my second, including the 15 minute wait. It was one of the more impressive things that I’ve seen, so I brought them a ton of Girl Scout cookies on my second appointment as a thanks for all of their work.

The timers looked something like this: