Forest Heights Pharmacy in Statesboro received 300 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. Owner Ben Ross set a goal to get them out as quickly as possible into the community. With the help of community partners he was successful in vaccinated 300 on Saturday.
“We have received over 10,000 phone calls from citizens looking for a vaccine. It got to a point where keeping a waitlist was unyielding”, said Ben Ross, Pharmacist and Owner of Forest Heights Pharmacy. “We knew the demand was there, if we could figure out the logistics we could distribute these in a matter of hours. This is truly our finest hour. To rapidly administer a life saving vaccine is a wonderful feeling for me and my team.”
Ben reached out to DeWayne Grice with Grice Connect and Bulloch VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Activated in Disaster) to help manage the logistics. He also reached out to local Emergency Room Physician Dr. Ruthie Crider, M.D., who also serves as Volunteer Medical Director for Bulloch VOAD.
Bulloch VOAD Responds
“The mission of Bulloch VOAD is to step up in times of crisis and disaster and bring together nonprofit and for profit community resources that can rapidly respond with assistance. We do this by leveraging relationships with our partner agencies who have expertise in a wide range of areas and match them to the agency requesting assistance needs”, said DeWayne Grice, Bulloch VOAD Chair. “We then utilize Grice Connect to rally community support for these agencies year round, so when a need is presented they are ready and able to respond quickly.”
Bulloch VOAD put out a call to Don and Mary Poe who leads Feed the Boro to handle site logistics. Feed the Boro has perfected logistics of massive food drops in our community and stand ready to help.
Dr. Crider helped secure the medical team to assist with the administration of the vaccine and provided on site supervision and assistance to the vaccination team. Dr. Crider enlisted the help of Dr. Frank Davis, M.D., who has retired to our community to help. Dr. Davis also serves as Grice Connect’s Medical Advisor.
Chris Yaughn with Fostering Bulloch and 7th Mile Farm, a Buloch VOAD partner agency, provided tables, chairs and other materials to accommodate the citizens.
April and Tim Burke with Squashing the Spread responded to help provide administrative assistance and guidance.
Bulloch VOAD corporate partners including Crider Foods, Bi-Lo and Lori Grice Photography stepped up to provide drinks and snacks for the vaccine recipients and lunch for the volunteers.
“This was a remarkable day for Bulloch County. It is a step forward in getting our community vaccinated”, said Dr. Ruthie Crider. “We must figure out a way to vaccinate large numbers of people quickly. This was a test of a larger scale vaccination clinic. This week all of the partners involved will come together to review how we can do this better and increase capacity. Every vaccine we administer is one less superspreader we have to worry about taking precious hospital capacity.”
Community Frustrated by Vaccine Roll Out
There has been a tremendous amount of anxiety and frustration throughout our community with the roll out of the vaccines. Bulloch County is not unique with this issue. The initial plan has been very frustrating for community leaders and providers who stand ready to rapidly vaccinate our community.
Local providers however share stories of how difficult it is to get access to the vaccines, the challenges of complying with reporting the administration of the vaccines on Georgia’s antiquated GRITS vaccine tracking system and the lack of consistency in receiving vaccines.
Providers have no idea when the vaccines they have order are coming or if they are coming, what quantity they will receive. They typically receive notification only 24 hours before a shipment is sent. The other issue is the tier system states are using to decide who gets the vaccine. The tiers are different from state to state. This adds an additional layer of confusion for the consumer and more administrative challenges for the provider to comply with the tight restrictions on who qualifies to receive the vaccines.
Grice Connect Provides Daily Vaccine Updates
Each day Grice Connect monitors vaccine supplies when they are shipped into Bulloch. In our daily COVID report we include a directory of local providers who are in the que for vaccine supplies. We keep this updated as information comes to us. You can find the daily report at www.griceconnect.com or on social media by liking or following Grice Connect. You can also receive the daily report and more local news from Grice Connect by email by subscribing for free. The Grice Connect Daily Brief is emailed every morning at 6 am.
Providers and Partners needed for Future Mass Vaccine Clinics
Grice Connect and Bulloch VOAD is looking to partner with any providers who want to join our goal in providing rapid administration of vaccines in our community. Contact DeWayne Grice at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in partnering with our effort.
Bulloch County Health Department Recognized
We want to also commend the local DPH staff who are doing vaccinations weekly at health department. Local DPH have worked tirelessly to test and now vaccinate our community. Their efforts have made and continue to make a tremendous difference in our community.
Our goal with this mass vaccination clinics is to help support them another other local providers vaccination efforts by relieving some of the pressure created by this surge of early demand.
This is much the same goal we have with the monthly food drops that Feed the Boro coordinates. These drops relieve pressure on the local food banks and allow them to operate more efficiently.