(Originally published in the August 2021 edition of The Walleye Magazine)
While most of the attention directed at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on intensive care capacity and managing treatment for those who have suffered the most serious effects of the virus, the Hospital has also been playing an important role in the vaccination process. Adrianne Shippam is the one in charge of those efforts. Shippam is the lead of the Hospital’s COVID vaccination task force, and the organization’s pharmacy clinical coordinator. Matt Prokopchuk spoke with her about the Hospital’s role in vaccinations, what they had to do to prepare, and what she thinks of the state we’re in now.
The Walleye: What has the Hospital’s role been in getting people vaccinated?
Adrianne Shippam: In the late fall, when we knew the vaccines were coming, the ministry identified hospitals to start the rollout of vaccines in communities. I think the thought process behind that was just to help support public health, as public health was really tied up with COVID testing, contact tracing, and all of that. The Hospital was in a good position to help support the vaccine rollout in a quick manner. Also, across the province, pharmacists were heavily involved in the rollout.
TW: What was involved in preparing to receive the vaccines?
AS: It was interesting preparing for it, as we still weren’t sure at the Hospital what our involvement was going to be. But what we were starting to do was to prepare to receive the vaccine. We had no idea what amount we would receive— enough for the entire community or just small amounts—so we had to really study the various products and storage requirements. We started by acquiring freezers. We did have one ultra low [temperature] freezer at the Hospital in our research department that we were able to utilize, but we also had to acquire a second one—again, not knowing how much vaccine we would receive and also knowing the scarcity of the vaccine, we wanted to have a backup plan should there be any equipment failure. We also acquired the -20° freezers as well as some vaccine refrigerators, so we really had to be prepared for everything. We also had to ensure our Hospital storage site for the vaccine met all the security requirements, so we had an OPP team come and ensure that our premises met all the security needs in order to accept and store the vaccine on-site.
TW: How is the Hospital still involved in vaccine distribution?
AS: As time went on, public health was able to ramp up their vaccine rollout as well, so it’s a very collaborative process right from the beginning with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit. They opened a mass clinic in March and we still continue our mass clinic here at the Bora Laskin building at Lakehead University. We have been involved with the rollout throughout the community as well, and we work alongside the health unit to determine what populations we’ll target versus what they’ll target. Our focus has mainly been at the Bora Laskin building at our mass clinics, so we’ve really been targeting health-care workers, teachers, those with certain high-risk health conditions, as well as some essential workers as well. Now we’re open to everyone as the eligibility has opened up across the province.
TW: How do you feel about where we are, getting people vaccinated?
AS: The Thunder Bay district is doing really well right now, we’re actually second in the province out of 34 public health units for vaccination rate so just kudos to our community for coming out and getting their vaccination. Our staff here and at the health unit, pharmacies, primary care—everyone has just been working tirelessly to get as many shots in arms each day, and they just keep going and going. I’m really proud of this community and how we’ve come together to get our numbers up so quickly. I think we’re doing really, really well.