Tidelands Health uses standby system to direct end-of-day doses to eligible individuals on waitlist

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The Tidelands Health Newsroom

Published on March 02, 2021

Tidelands Health uses standby system to direct end-of-day doses to eligible individuals on waitlist

A standby system implemented by Tidelands Health is helping ensure any end-of-day COVID-19 vaccine doses go into the arms of eligible Phase 1a individuals already on the health system’s waitlist.

Individuals on the waitlist were recently given the opportunity to participate in the standby system. Each day, eight people who opted in are randomly selected to be on standby – four people each at the health system’s two regional vaccination sites in Georgetown and Horry counties.

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to be given at a Tidelands Health regional vaccination site.If any unused doses remain after the vaccination sites finish all scheduled appointments for the day, the standby participants receive the vaccine and are scheduled for their second dose.

The system, in place for about two weeks, accomplishes two goals: It helps make sure doses aren’t wasted and that they are administered to eligible Phase 1a individuals already on the Tidelands Health waitlist to receive the vaccine.

Only those randomly selected from the health system’s existing vaccine waitlist can participate in the standby system. Tidelands Health regional vaccination sites operate by appointment only and do not allow walk-ins.

“Our team continues to find creative solutions to the challenges that emerge when you embrace the massive undertaking of administering COVID-19 vaccine to tens of thousands of eligible individuals,” said Gayle Resetar, chief operating officer at Tidelands Health. “The standby system has been extremely successful and well received by individuals on our waitlist eager to get the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

After a vial of the Pfizer vaccine containing six doses is opened, it must be used within six hours. It can’t simply be saved for the next day.

For example, if a vial is opened for two remaining appointments at the end of the day, that leaves four doses that must be administered. The standby system puts designated Phase 1a-eligible individuals – who were already on the health system’s waitlist -- at the vaccination site to receive those potential extra doses.

Though the scheduling of appointments at the Tidelands Health vaccination sites and the opening of vials are closely coordinated, a few doses may remain at the end of the day if patients with appointments do not report as scheduled or if extra doses are extracted from a vial. Prior to implementation of the standby system, any extra doses were administered to health care workers eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1a.

While vaccination is not guaranteed for those on standby, most are able to get the vaccine after a day or two on standby and are grateful for the chance to be vaccinated. Those selected for standby don’t lose their place on the health system’s waitlist if they don’t receive a vaccine.

“It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Robert Stanton of Murrells Inlet, who, with his wife Cathy, received their first doses as standbys and now have appointments to return for their second doses. “The standby worked great for us to get the vaccine, and it’s great for the supply, too.”

As of today, Tidelands Health has administered more than 26,900 doses of vaccine, including more than 20,900  doses to seniors 70 and older. The health system’s standby program is part of a comprehensive strategy to make sure every drop of the lifesaving vaccine is used appropriately.

In addition, dedicated draw stations have been set up at both vaccination sites to allow trained clinicians to use special syringes and precise technique to extract six – and sometimes seven – doses of vaccine from each vial. Vials were originally labeled to contain only five doses.

“We take our duty as stewards of the COVID-19 vaccine very seriously. Our goal is to get eligible Phase 1a individuals vaccinated as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible,” Resetar said. “Our strategies are helping us stretch the vaccine supply and make sure every dose goes into the arm of an eligible Phase 1a recipient.

“We will continue to be diligent in our efforts to responsibly administer vaccine. With a limited vaccine supply that is not adequate to meet demand in our region, every creative solution is crucial to help prevent waste.”

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Tidelands Health is the region’s largest health care provider and MUSC Health affiliate, serving the Carolinas at four hospitals and more than 60 outpatient locations. More than 2,500 employee, physician and volunteer partners work side by side with our communities to transform the health of our region – promoting wellness, preventing illness, encouraging recovery and restoring health.