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UCI Health reflects on the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 vaccine

The healthcare system has administered more than 141,000 doses since receiving the vaccine last December

December 13, 2021
Respiratory therapist Vita Susin was the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at UCI Health
Respiratory therapist Vita Susin gets the first COVID-19 vaccination at UCI Health.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the release of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare personnel and, eventually, the public. On Dec. 16, UCI Health received and immediately began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to its frontline healthcare workers.

During the last year, UCI Health was at the forefront of the vaccination efforts and was initially allotted roughly 3,000 units of the Pfizer vaccine. Due to the low supply of the vaccine when it first became available, healthcare workers were at the top of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list to be first in line to be inoculated. More than 500 UCI Health coworkers signed up to receive the vaccine within the first hour the vaccination schedule opened.

As an academic health system, UCI Health was well suited to handle the challenges and demands of the new vaccine such as having the required freezers for storage, creating proper consent forms and ensuring there was no disruption in patient care.

“It took our entire workforce to prepare for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout,” said UCI Health CEO Chad T. Lefteris. “I’m extremely proud of how well they worked together to ensure vaccinations would be done safely and efficiently. But what I’m most impressed by, is their unwavering commitment to our patients, our community and each other throughout the ongoing pandemic.”

While UCI Health had the infrastructure in place to handle providing vaccinations to a large population, such as the influenza vaccine, preparing for the COVID-19 vaccine still required a lot of work. Staff members worked tirelessly around the clock to prepare, which included conducting drills to practice ferrying the vaccine into deep-freeze storage and reconstituting the vaccine from vials into injectable doses. The healthcare system also had the foresight to purchase more than 30,000 needles over the previous summer in preparation for the arrival of the vaccine.

The first vaccinations were given to frontline clinical staff who cared for patients in high-risk settings or patients who might have COVID-19, then it was then given to staff and physicians in the emergency department and intensive care unit (ICU), clinicians who provide critical care, respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists and others who were in the priority first group.

Since then, UCI Health has administered more than 141,000 doses, including to approximately 15,000 healthcare workers. 

The COVID-19 vaccine eventually became available to all adults in early 2021. UCI Health continues to offer vaccinations, including booster shots and the pediatric vaccine for children ages 5-11, in its primary care locations.

UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif. The 459-bed acute-care hospital, listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 20 consecutive years, provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, as well as behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centerhigh-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. It is the primary teaching hospital for the UCI School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.