Just before 1:30 Wednesday afternoon, Joyce Girard sat patiently in her great-nephew’s car in the parking lot of the Shrine on Airline.
Girard, 70, was about to get her first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine as part of a 1,200-dose trial run Ochsner Health put on at the Metairie baseball facility Wednesday afternoon. The event, the second drive-thru vaccination trial run in Jefferson Parish in as many days, is a preview of what Ochsner and parish officials hope will become much larger events in the months ahead.
Ochsner spokesperson Katie Fauquier called it a “test run” for what Ochsner wants to eventually do around the state. Staff from other locations were in Metairie working and hoping to take lessons back to other areas, such as Baton Rouge, she said.
The process worked like this: Patients arrived at the allotted time for their appointment, checked in, and then entered the large parking lot to the west of the stadium. There, they were directed through one of six lanes where medical workers with pre-mixed syringes poked them in the arm. Then they pulled into a parking area for observation. Getting the appointment for the first jab also secures them another appointment three weeks from now for the second shot.
For many Wednesday, the process from arrival to getting the shot took less than 20 minutes.
Girard, of New Orleans, had arrived early for her 1:50 appointment, and as she spoke, her nephew inched the SUV forward toward the tent where she would get her vaccine.
“I feel happy,” she said as she waited. “I want the vaccine.”
Moments later, as Girard waited out the 15-minute post-vaccine observation period in her nephew’s car, she said it had been a nearly painless process.
“That was easy,” she said.
Once fully armed with the vaccine, Girard said she hopes to be able to see more of her family members, including her daughter, many of whom had kept their distance due to COVID fears.
In what Jefferson Parish officials hope will be a preview of march larger events to come, 500 coronavirus vaccinations were administered Tuesd…
Girard’s experience was echoed by a number of other folks who showed up for appointments Wednesday. Unlike testing sites, which usually take all comers, the vaccines were available only to those who had first made an appointment through either Ochsner’s online portal or by telephone. To get an appointment, they had to meet the state’s criteria: over 65 years of age, or in one of several other groups that are eligible to be vaccinated under the state’s current limited supply.
When they arrived at the Shrine, appointment holders who had filled out the necessary paperwork ahead of time were directed to one of six vaccination lanes. Those who had not were diverted to the side, where they completed the paperwork and then drove a serpentine path — not unlike the line for a ride at Walt Disney World — leading to one of the six vaccination lanes.
Dawn Pevey, the Ochsner official overseeing much of the operation, said the site could be expanded from 1,200 vaccines to perhaps as many as 7,000-8,000 when vaccine supplies finally allow. In the first hour, she said, the 120-person onsite crew had handled about a quarter of Wednesday’s appointments.
Just a few feet away from where Pevey Mauk was talking, pharmacists huddled around a table in an air-conditioned trailer. There, they took the doses of the Pfizer vaccine out of coolers and pulled them into? them in syringes for injection. Once out of the coolers, the vaccine is good for only six hours, so the staff had to work as efficiently as possible to keep the six lanes stocked but not overstocked.
Gary and Stephanie Catoir, of Metairie, made it through the line quickly as well. Stephanie Catoir said she hoped to go see her sister in Colorado once she is fully vaccinated again; Gary Catoir said he looked forward to seeing the children in his neighborhood again.
They both praised the vaccination site.
“They have this so well organized,” Stephanie Catoir said.
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