CHAS Health partnered with Gonzaga University to hold an on-campus COVID-19 vaccination distribution site from Feb. 26 through March 2 and an additional day on March 6. 

Originally, they partnered with the Washington State Department of Health to provide a mass vaccination site. This came about after the Spokane Regional Health District reached out to CHAS to help manage that project. After spending several weeks assisting, the Department of Health took over the reigns of the Spokane Arena project, and CHAS began to focus its vaccination efforts back onto their patients.

Shortly following this, however, the government shipped roughly 7,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to CHAS. Seeing an opportunity to collaborate, it reached out to GU.

“We literally got a call from the vice president of operations saying that they had been given thousands of doses of the Moderna vaccine from the federal government,” said Charlita Shelton, the COVID-19 compliance officer and special  consultant to GU President Thayne McCulloh. “Unexpectedly, they’d received thousands of doses of the vaccine, and they were going to be moving out of the arena. Another group was moving in, and so they needed some type of infrastructure to administer the vaccine.”

This and a number of GU alumni employees at CHAS led to a vaccination site on campus. 

The vaccination site follows current Washington state policy. People who are either above the age of 65, health care workers or above age 50 and live in a multigenerational household, are some of the people eligible for a dose of the Moderna inoculant.

Child care workers and school district employees were also recently added to the eligibility list.

“We did receive a larger supply than we had anticipated,” CHAS Chief Administrative Officer Kelley Charvet said. “Initially we were going to open it up to CHAS established patients. However, because of the amount of supply we received, we were able to open it up to many more community members.”

Those who wanted to partake in the clinic had to check their eligibility status on the Department of Health’s website. If they were eligible, they could register for an appointment on CHAS’ website.

“They’re escorted back into a vaccination area where they complete the vaccination process, and then they go to another secondary waiting area where they wait 15 minutes or so just to make sure there are no adverse reactions to the vaccine,” Chavet said. “While they’re waiting, there’s an individual there that will help them schedule their second dose.”

The original clinic length was designated to start on Feb. 26 and go through March 2. However, due to the large amount of vaccines in stock, CHAS added an additional day on March 6. 

They administered roughly 1,000 doses per day.

“We provided our own volunteers and, you know, of course, we’ve had students just on Saturday volunteer, but the entire community volunteered to be part of the effort,” Shelton said. “It took a group of 15 to 20 of us and different areas of the institution to put this together as quick as we have, and it was overwhelmingly successful.”

McCulloh emailed GU students before both rounds of the clinic to call for volunteers to work both morning and afternoon shifts. Nursing students from three different universities, including GU and Washington State University, also participated in the clinic.

“What we learned is, if you’ve been there and you have done the instructions, whether it’s registered folks, making sure they have the PPE, making sure that they’re signed in, then what we’re able to do is take other folks and, even manager levels at Gonzaga and say ‘Listen, we need your help. You know, we’d like you to come and shadow us,’” Shelton said. “This is what we do on a typical shift, and that’s what we’re able to do to sustain ourselves for eight days doing this.”

As it currently stands, the state of Washington has administered at least one dose of the vaccine to 17.9% of its population, according to NPR’s COVID-19 tracker. With infection rates on the decline, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing closer with each passing day.

“I think in the meantime, of course, we need to be diligent about continuing to do everything we can to stay safe for those who aren’t vaccinated yet,” Chavet said. “But certainly, hopefully, this is a time when we can look back on and go, ‘Wow, we learned a lot.’ I think we certainly learned that together we can do better. Together we can do more.”

The CHAS mass vaccination clinic will begin again on March 26 to administer the second doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations to those that scheduled appointments.

“If anyone can take away anything from this [it should be that] Gonzaga continues to live its mission,” Shelton said. “It’s almost like, ‘You can talk the talk all you want, but can you walk the walk? Do you walk that walk?’ And I think, to a great degree, it proves Gonzaga walks the walk.”

Alexander Prevost is a staff writer. 

Alexander Prevost is a staff writer for the Gonzaga Bulletin. He is passionate about writing, politics, and music.

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