Assessing Lessons Learned During the First Phase of COVID-19 Vaccinations


Pharmacy Times® interviewed Sandra Divarco, JD, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, on the complex considerations facing hospitals, health systems, and pharmacies during COVID-19 vaccinations.

Pharmacy Times® interviewed Sandra Divarco, JD, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, on the complex considerations facing hospitals, health systems, and pharmacies during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccinations.

The discussion included some of the key questions facing hospitals, health systems, and pharmacies during COVID-19 vaccinations; some of the key state-specific issues around COVID-19 vaccinations; how hospitals, health systems, and pharmacies can address state-specific issues; legal considerations that organizations providing COVID-19 vaccinations should be aware of; and how hospitals can prepare for phase 2 of the vaccination process.

Divarco explained that between the multiple phases and tiers, it can be complicated to attempt to predict what is coming next.

“I think the challenge is going to be how hospitals and health systems in particular interface with community efforts as they try to get things spread around into the community, while still meeting their daily obligations in patient care, [and] even vaccinating staff and contractors at some hospitals and healthcare facilities—it was a massive undertaking. There's the second round of shots too, so it's not like a one-time deal,” Divarco said.

She noted that there are also a lot of resources that have needed to go into these efforts around how a hospital or health system interfaces with broader community efforts to vaccinate others in the community as the priority groups continue to move along and expand.

“Obviously, for the most part, the hospitals and health systems want to be helpful, they want to get the community as healthy as possible and get the vaccine in as many arms as they can. But there's real considerations there about what can they do themselves and maybe how best to partner with others like county departments of health or other resources to make sure that these things can occur,” Divarco said.

Divarco also explained that very early in the COVID-19 vaccination process, there were issues with the management of information and patient flow. She noted that for the next steps in the vaccination process, a better understanding of how to anticipate these issues would be beneficial, as well as taking steps to help individuals anticipate what will occur after their initial vaccination in terms of scheduling a second dose.

“It sounds so basic: You make an appointment to get the vaccine, you need to make an appointment for your second vaccine, you need to have all these things processed, you need to internally make sure your staff is available to have the vaccine. [But] there's a lot of pieces there,” Divarco said.

One of the challenges occurring in hospitals and health systems has been how exactly to coordinate all of those pieces, and then how to roll it out more broadly as vaccinations become more available, Divarco explained.

“One of the things that the government did quite recently was authorized, from a privacy standpoint, the use of a lot more third-party scheduling applications, and I think that's going to hopefully help both large and small communities get things scheduled and get people on the right path,” Divarco said.

Divarco noted that a recent innovative example of collaboration occurred in which a hospital that was having a particularly hard time with their drive-up vaccine location asked for aid from a local fast-food restaurant.

“They reached out to a local Chick-fil-A restaurant where they have a very busy drive-thru, and their management team helped them rejigger how they handled people driving into the vaccine location. So just being prepared to deal with flow of both people and information in a way and to think creatively are I think the types of lessons that will hopefully carry over well as the vaccination process increases,” Divarco said.

The discussion also included the continued importance of reimagining health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, and what is coming next in terms of COVID-19 vaccinations.

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