Guadalupe County resident Kenneth Kohlenberg nodded as he answered all of the questions Monica Carter asked before she administered his first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.
Kohlenberg was impressed with how well the vaccine clinic was set up in the Seguin Events Complex — Coliseum, taking him about five minutes from standing in line to getting his shot.
“It is a wonderful experience,” he said. “I figured it was going to be total chaos. It was very good. It was very organized.”
The vaccine clinic was a coordinated effort between Guadalupe Regional Medical Center, the city of Seguin and Guadalupe County to distribute 5,000 vaccines in three days.
“I’m so glad that Guadalupe County is now on the list to start getting vaccines,” Seguin resident Jenny Siltmann said after she and her husband got their first doses.
Staff from all three entities, as well as volunteers from the healthcare network worked in synergy to move people through the process as quickly as possible, Seguin City Manager Steve Parker said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” he said on Thursday. “They put out great effort, it was a great partnership with the county, the hospital and our city staff. We ran about 250 people through an hour and there was basically no wait lines at all today. When you got here it was minimal wait.”
Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher was inspired by the work put into making this first the vaccine clinic successful.
“I have more confidence now than ever that we are able to handle just about anything as a community,” he said. “Everybody was so willing from the volunteers and the groups, even the people coming through the site, to do whatever was needed. I can’t say thank you enough to all of the people that put in the time to make it happen.”
The clinic inoculated 1,055 people on Wednesday, 2,080 on Thursday and 2,050 on Friday, with minimal issue, Guadalupe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patrick Pinder said.
“The vaccine efforts here at the coliseum have been steady, consistent,” he said. “We’ve been proficient in moving people through the vaccine site. We were able to track the timing of people getting their shots from through the front door to getting a shot in the arm and to their waiting seat to right around six minutes.”
The coliseum served as the ideal place for the vaccine clinic, Pinder said. It allowed community members to enter quickly, and weave while staying socially distant, with space between the inoculation stations, second-dose appointment set up, an area for people to sit and wait for 15 minutes following the shot as well as plenty of parking space.
City and county staff heard plenty of compliments on the clinic as people were leaving, Parker said.
“We had really good feedback and comments from everybody,” he said. “It was a great team effort. We haven’t had one negative comment, which is unbelievable.”
The only real hiccup was the technical issues as registration opened, Parker said.
Organizers visited several vaccine clinics in the area and reached out to colleagues across the state to get the logistics of their clinics to set the model for the coliseum, Parker said. Even as the clinic was in full swing, they continued to make adjustments.
“We’ve even tweaked our process over the last two days to get even more efficient,” Parker said. “We have a debriefing every night and try to tweak the system every day.”
Efficiency was a key goal for the clinic, and the team achieved that, Kutscher said.
“That was one of our main objectives. We wanted it to be as painless as possible for the people going through,” he said. “But we also wanted to prove it to the state that our community is ready to handle a lot of vaccines for our community. Send them, please. We want them.”
The clinic served as a test run of how well the local entities manage a hub, if the state approves it, Parker said.
“They’re going to be grading us on how we did and doing more shots and getting them in arms this quick, we should do very well,” he said. “We do anticipate vaccines coming in but we’re not counting on them. I think we’ll start to see them in the following weeks coming in on a regular basis.”
The success of the hub will depend on volunteers from the community, as it takes about four dozen people to run it.
“To have this ongoing, it’s really going to have to be a lot of volunteers,” Parker said. “We have 35-40 city and county employees up here. When we do this again, we’ll be asking for volunteers. We’ll be reaching out to community organizations.”
It’s a tall order, one that comes with concerns about sustainability, Kutscher said.
“I think we proved to ourselves that we can handle a good number of vaccines on a weekly basis, but the challenge would be having the resources and volunteers and being able to run multiple to a few days every week to this point,” he said. “The real concern is not just getting another allocation next week and the week after. It is when you are getting first and second doses over a month from now. If they send us 5,000 a week, that’s great but it is going to turn into 10,000 at some point.”
Guadalupe County has begun talking with Schertz about the possibilities if the county starts receiving direct allocations, Kutscher said.
“We have talked a little bit with Schertz and if they give us a direct allocation every week that is consistent and we can split it between the Schertz and Seguin communities and do one day a week at each location, that is something that is more sustainable,” he said. “Everybody is committed, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get as many vaccines as possible and get them out to the public.”