On December 14, 2020, University Health Network (UHN) gave the first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario.
Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker from the Rekai Centres, was the first to receive the vaccine at The Michener Institute of Education at UHN’s St. Patrick Campus, which was selected as the pilot site to give vaccines to health care workers from long-term care homes.
When deciding what location would be the pilot site, Michener was the best choice because it is part of UHN, there weren’t many students or staff on-site as the majority of courses were being taught virtually, the building provided ideal external access and had the equipment necessary to prepare the space in a short amount of time.
Michener learned in early December it would be the pilot site, with one week to prepare its gym.
“The whole process is very complex because of the requirements for the vaccine itself, as well as the need to maintain social distancing while doing this,” says Paul Martin, Director of Facilities at Michener.
The vaccine comes in a concentrated form that must be kept at -70 °C in temperature-controlled thermal shippers provided by Pfizer. Once transferred to a refrigerator, it must be administered within five days.
“We set-up a small pharmacy where pharmacists and pharmacy technicians were diluting and preparing the syringes all day, because once they’re prepared, they must be used within the same day,” says Paul.
Ensuring there are adequate barriers and partitions was another consideration as those receiving the vaccine are asked to wait 15 minutes following the shot to confirm there are no serious adverse reactions.
“I worked with Ian McDermott and a number of people in Facility, Management, Planning Redevelopment and Operations (FM-PRO) throughout UHN. At Michener, we had an incredibly collaborative team that came together to help with this, including the Student Success Network, finance, the Chiropody Clinic, Respiratory Therapy faculty, Lab Services, Information Management and Communications and Marketing,” says Paul. “Since we were the first ones doing this, we were figuring it out as we went and making improvements along the way.”
With Michener being the first vaccine site in Ontario, there was a huge amount of media attention. UHN’s Public Affairs team and Michener’s Communications and Marketing team assisted in managing on-site media and additional security was hired. Students living in on-campus residence were also very accommodating to the increased foot traffic.
As of early February, Michener has given 9006 doses of the vaccine to recipients.
“The day of that first vaccine was actually kind of surreal,” says Paul. “Getting to see the first person receiving a vaccine within a year of the pandemic was just extraordinary. I’ll never forget that first day.”