Each fall, the Mass General/Mass General Physicians Organization (MGPO) Flu Committee hosts a walk-in clinic for Massachusetts General Hospital patients and staff to receive their seasonal influenza vaccine, part of a broader hospital mission to support the health of the community and reduce serious illness related to the flu. With the 2020-2021 flu season overlapping with the COVID-19 pandemic, widespread vaccination was even more important to help alleviate the potential burden on the health care system.
“Organizing the Central Flu Clinic during a pandemic presented several logistical challenges, as well as opportunities for adjusting existing operations to expand access to the flu vaccine and meet the evolving needs of the community,” says Christine Marra, RN, nurse manager of the Central Flu Clinic and the Primary Care Urgent Access Center.
The committee began planning for the flu clinic in early summer. “Recognizing that COVID precautions would play a significant role in shaping how the clinic would operate, one of our first steps was soliciting guidance from Infection Control about what adjustments needed to be made to clinic flow to meet physical distancing guidelines and infection control procedures,” says Marra. “In prior years the clinic was limited to adult patients but given the need to make the flu vaccine as accessible as possible, this year the clinic vaccinated children ages 9 and up.
“Several adjustments were made to daily operations to minimize crowding and maximize convenience for patients, beginning with changing the location to the Russell Museum, and moving up the opening date to late September, two weeks earlier than last year,” says Marra. Daily hours of operation were extended by an hour in the morning to provide patients with early morning appointments an opportunity to get their flu shot before seeing their provider. Saturday morning hours were also offered to allow more flexibility for patients and families who had difficulty coming to the clinic during the week. When the clinic closed in December, nearly 8,800 vaccinations had been administered.
A number of key individuals played critical roles in making the Flu Clinic a success: David Hooper, MD, chief of the Infection Control Unit, and Dee Dee Suslak, RN, director of the Infection Control Unit, who provided guidance about infection control procedures; Julie Marden, NP, of the MGPO, Virginia Manzella, senior administrative director of Primary Care, and Marra for planning and managing daily clinic operations; Chrisanne Sikora, MGPO senior project manager, for project management support; Alexy Arauz Boudreau, MD, of MassGeneral Hospital for Children, for advocating for pediatric patients, and Maria Pelletier, RN, from MGHfC, for providing guidance and training staff to administer vaccines to children; Sarah Alger and Michelle Marcella, director and assistant director of the Russell Museum, for providing support to the flu clinic; and support from Mass General Pharmacy, Bulfinch Temps and Volunteer Services.
“The success of the 2020 flu clinic is credited to a collaborative effort across multiple departments and disciplines,” Marra says. “A huge thank you to these—and many other individuals—for their dedication and determination in vaccinating our workforce, and community.”