UCSF Expands Vaccination Effort in Partnership with City of San Francisco

By Lisa Cisneros

woman receives COVID-19 vaccine in her car at drive-through clinic

Terry Hill (right) receives her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Patrick Sorensen, RN, a nurse at UCSF Medical Center, at a vaccination drive-through clinic offered by UCSF and the San Francisco Department of Public Health at City College San Francisco. Photo by Susan Merrell

As its supply of COVID-19 vaccines increases, UC San Francisco is expanding its vaccination efforts to those most at risk – the elderly and health care workers in the community.

Since the delivery of its first shipment of vaccines in mid-December, teams across UCSF have been working diligently to vaccinate UCSF employees and learners by prioritizing those at highest risk for contracting the virus while working on site.

Implementing this complex, multi-phased vaccination program has involved a tremendous team effort, while operating with a few days’ of vaccine doses at a time and amid uncertainty about future shipments. The multi-disciplinary team meets daily to evaluate the current vaccine supply and to decide who will be included in future rounds of vaccinations based on state and federal guidelines

UCSF leaders emphasize that over the months ahead, all members of the UCSF community will have an opportunity to be vaccinated. All faculty, staff, learners and patients are encouraged to be vaccinated when it’s their turn. Importantly, everyone should continue to follow public health orders, such as wearing face coverings, washing hands, maintaining physical distancing and completing the daily health screening before coming on campus.

To date, UCSF has offered vaccination appointments to more than 21,600 employees and learners whose on-site responsibilities involve high-risk exposure to COVID-19. Nearly 18,000 of these have received their first dose, and nearly 16,500 have scheduled their second. It has also vaccinated more than 6,300 patients, starting with those age 75 and over. Altogether, it has administered nearly 35,000 vaccines in its first six weeks of vaccinations. So far, UCSF has seen very few adverse side effects in its vaccination program.

woman sits in vaccination clinic at UCSF's Rutter Center

Truc Nguyen (far left), RN, and Rossana Segovia (far right), NP, talk with Karen Whalen, a retired probation officer in the San Francisco Adult Probation Department, to assure she has no symptoms after receiving her Moderna COVID-19 vaccination at the UCSF William J. Rutter Center vaccination site at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus. Photo by Susan Merrell

UCSF has responded to the City’s urgent request for help in vaccinating the estimated 88,000 front line health care workers who are not affiliated with a medical center, such as dentists, emergency medical technicians and home health workers. So far, UCSF has vaccinated more than 1,380 of these members who are included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s first priority tier, alongside UCSF employees and patients.

“Our vaccinations have continued at a rapid pace,” said UCSF Health Chief Clinical Officer Josh Adler, MD, in a message to the UCSF community. “As we continue to schedule vaccinations for the remainder of our workforce and learners who are at highest-risk of exposure, we have begun inviting additional employees and our patients, by age groups, in alignment with state guidance.”

Among the latest developments in UCSF’s ongoing vaccination program:

  • This week, the Mission Bay campus vaccination site was moved from Mission Hall to the Rutter Center to allow UCSF to increase the number of vaccine doses administered from about 600 to more than 1,000 per day and to improve the experience for patients. 
  • At the Parnassus Heights campus vaccination location, UCSF is administering the vaccine to employees, learners and health care workers.
  • And on Jan. 22, UCSF began partnering with the City of San Francisco to launch the city’s first high-volume, drive-through vaccination site at City College of San Francisco (CCSF).

Partnering with the City

Over the past four days since the CCSF site opened, UCSF clinicians and staff administered more than 3,000 vaccines to elderly members of the community, 80 percent of whom live in the City, including about 60 percent who are not UCSF patients. This site is scaling up to vaccinate 1,000 patients per day and aims to reach 3,000 people per day as soon as vaccine supplies increase. Currently, anyone who is age 75 or older and either a UCSF patient or San Francisco resident is eligible to schedule a vaccination at CCSF.

“With the launch of this mass vaccination program, Mayor Breed and the San Francisco Department of Public Health are providing the critical leadership that has made the City a model for managing the pandemic,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “As our community waits for vaccine supplies to become more widely available, UCSF is prepared to support San Francisco in vaccinating the City’s residents, focusing first on those who are most vulnerable to this disease.”

With the launch of this mass vaccination program, Mayor Breed and the San Francisco Department of Public Health are providing the critical leadership that has made the City a model for managing the pandemic.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS

The goal of UCSF and the City’s vaccination efforts is to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible based on vaccine availability. To that end, volunteers are being sought to help both at the CCSF site and UCSF campus locations at Mission Bay and Parnassus Heights.

While some have questioned why those who reside outside the City were vaccinated before San Francisco residents, public health officials point out that the virus knows no geographic boundaries as people travel throughout the Bay Area. The initial online registration system for vaccinations at CCSF allowed non-San Francisco residents to schedule an appointment, but the City plans to roll out a new online system for City residents only. Public health officials agree that it is prudent to vaccinate as many people as possible to combat this once-in-a-generation public health crisis. 

Josh Adler gives a tour of the City College vaccination site to Mayor London Breed and SFDPH Director Grant Colfax

Josh Adler (far right), MD, executive vice president for physician services at UCSF Health, gives a tour of the COVID-19 vaccination site at City College San Francisco to Mayor London Breed (second from left) and Grant Colfax (far left), MD, the director of San Francisco Department of Public Health. Photo by Susan Merrell

“The opening of the City College site is an important milestone in our mass vaccination effort, which will, in time, bring this terrible pandemic to an end,” said Grant Colfax, MD, director of San Francisco Department of Public Health, in the Mayor’s news release. “While vaccine supply coming to San Francisco remains extremely limited, this site, and the other high-volume vaccination sites that will be opening in the coming weeks will provide the physical space, medical personnel, and logistical processes to efficiently deliver the vaccine when it becomes available.” 

Adler understands that the inconsistent and insufficient supply of vaccines nationwide and in the Bay Area can be frustrating, but he is optimistic about the national vaccination strategy announced by President Joseph Biden. “With greater federal focus on managing COVID-19 and vaccines, we hope the supply will become more stable and distribution will expand,” he said.

‘Enormous Vaccination Effort’

While the first day of vaccinations at CCSF began on a cold and rainy day, the weather warmed with the arrival of sunshine, lifting the spirits of those working outdoors.

More than 60 UCSF Health clinicians and staff participated in the effort, including Susan Pappas, executive director of the UCSF Health Experience Excellence Division. She zipped up and down in a golf cart delivering vaccine vials to the tents lined up in the CCSF parking lot. 

For Pappas, the experience left her on the verge of joyful tears with the thought that this “enormous vaccination effort could be the beginning of the end of this devastating pandemic.”

“I can tell you with certainty that all of our hearts were warm having had the opportunity to participate,” Pappas said. “The team effort was efficient, exhilarating, and nothing short of excellent. Working alongside of colleagues who have shouldered the burden this last year of this COVID pandemic and seeing their enthusiasm to be a part of something so positive was so rewarding.”

The team at the City’s first large vaccination site also included Adler, who provided physician support and fielded a barrage of questions from news reporters, and Kim Murphy, director of UCSF Health Administration and Wayne Little, RN, director of Perioperative Patient Care, both of whom served as site leaders. 

Many patients voiced gratitude to UCSF for responding to the challenge and staging the drive-through vaccination site on short notice. One woman from San Rafael literally danced a jig in the parking lot, so excited to receive the vaccine. 

Another patient, who preferred to remain anonymous, reached out to tell staff how grateful she was to the UCSF team involved in the effort. “I received my first dose of the COVID vaccine today at CCSF after having received an invitation yesterday to make the appointment,” she said. “I did not know what to expect because on the news, people were having all kinds of problems with the vaccination drive-throughs, but for me, this drive-through was unexpectedly easy. I arrived about 15 minutes early and was vaccinated quickly. It was top notch.”