By Jamie Leary

(CBS4) – As states struggle to find ways to effectively distribute and administer vaccinations, one Colorado community has found success through local pharmacies and a drive-thru pod.

(credit: CBS)

“Public works has been instrumental in planning and development. Every single time we do one of these vaccination pods, they’re the first ones out there getting the infrastructure set up, setting up the message boards,” said Brian Bovaird, Summit County Director of Emergency Management.

From Public Works to the information department, to the school district, Bovarid says Summit County has been working together for months to prepare for a successful distribution.

On Monday, the county announced it would be giving a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to its front-line workers an offering more Moderna doses to its 70+ population.

“We just have these really strong partnerships that have come together. This is one of the benefits I think of a smaller community,” said Amy Wineland, Summit County Public Health Director.

The drive-thru pod isn’t new to Summit County. It’s a model that has proven successful for the county in the past.

“We can look all the way back to when we had H1N1 that pandemic and when the vaccine rolled out there, we actually did mass vaccination clinics at that time, so we’ve been really practicing getting vaccines out to a large amount of people for a long time, since 2009,” said Wineland.

(credit: CBS)

Bovarid called the county’s information department the unsung heroes of the operation and says their efforts to organize scheduling for vaccinations have been the most impressive part.

Jacklyn Thompson is the Care Coordinator for Summit County and has not only been instrumental in the appointment system, she’s working hard to make sure it’s equitable.

“We wanted to expand the online scheduling system beyond the online capabilities knowing that some folks in our community may not have the greatest access to those systems,” Thompson continued, “so we’re looking to expand into telephone appointments- there will be bilingual capabilities as well. We’ve collaborated with FIRC (Family & Intercultural Resource Center), we solidified that partnership today, for them to support taking telephone appointments in Spanish for our Spanish speaking 70+ community.”

To prepare to receive the public for vaccinations, the county most recently practiced its drive-thru model with flu vaccines.

“When you first think about 80 appointments per hour, you think, can we really get all these people through with paperwork and everything else, but it has been so well figured out and scheduling so well done,” said Abbie Cobb, Northwest Regional Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Staff.

Cobb has been working since the spring to contact local health care providers and hospitals in an effort to count the number of local front-line workers in need of the vaccine.

“To determine really how many numbers we had form each of those agencies so we had a really good idea of how many people we would have to vaccinate when we got to that group,” she said.

With vaccinations expected to open to more members of the public soon, Cobb said the county and its partners continue to plan for the future.

“We are not only vaccinating through our drive-thru pod, our hospital is vaccinating our hospital workers, our pharmacy is vaccinating high priority groups and then we are bringing our community care clinic on board to vaccinate some of these high priority groups. We’ll also be expanding, as we get more vaccine, to providers and hopefully have a lot of different avenues for people within the community to access the vaccine so it won’t just be the pod going down the road.”

(credit: CBS)

Wineland said the county also plans to repurpose its mobile flu vaccination van for distribution of the COVID vaccine.

“We were thinking about this from the beginning and we were able to get some grants in place through CARES Act dollars to help support our getting our mobile van equipped for doing mobile clinics that we did during flu we’ll be mobilizing again for COVID vaccine to go into neighborhoods to help with that access and equitability piece and the of course, we had a lot of infrastructure funding to really put toward buying supplies — heaters, and kind of refitting our Summit stage bus barn into a drive-thru pod,” said Wineland.

While the county has a distribution system down, the number of doses it receives is based on the state’s supply. Part of that is determined by how many permanent residents in Summit County are in the 70+ age group. The other part is front-line workforce.

“The prior group that we were vaccinating, which were hospital and health care workers, was actually determined according to the number of workers that we have not by population but by those groups that actually work in Summit County.”

This week it received about 600 doses compared to 814 last week and while each week the number of doses is unknown, Summit County will open appointments weekly and plans to have its drive-thru pod open every Thursday for the 70+ population and remaining front-line workers. Summit County says right now, it is not planning to include second homeowners in the eligible population.

Jamie Leary