Medical milestone: 100,000 doses and counting

February 18, 2021
Syringe filled with vaccine about to be injected into upper arm
Vaccinators at MUSC have done this more than 100,000 times. Photo by Sarah Pack

This week, MUSC administered its 100,000th dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. That’s 200,000 gloves. Thousands of MUSC Health care team members. And lots of little Band-Aids. 

“I think the Herculean efforts that have gone into getting that many needles into that many arms are just awesome,” said Jason Mills, Pharm.D., pharmacy supply chain manager for MUSC.

A little over two months ago, MUSC administered its first dose to Shemika Champion, R.N., a pediatric nurse at MUSC Children's Health. Since then, MUSC has set up over a dozen fixed sites as well as two to three weekly mobile sites targeting rural areas across the state, with the single goal of getting as many South Carolinians vaccinated as possible.

“The resiliency of the care teams through this entire process has been stunning,” said Danielle Scheurer, M.D., MUSC Health System chief quality officer. “Honestly, it’s just been fun to watch. I’m constantly amazed at how nimble and unfazed by change these people are.”

Scheurer remembers one particular instance, early in the process, when MUSC received more vaccine than it was expecting. They needed to set up a clinic, so they called several team members on the New Year holiday, and the very next day, the East Cooper site on Hungryneck Boulevard was up and running. 

Scheurer was there and remembers the energy and optimism at the site. “People coming to the site were happy. The care team members were happy. It was like a New Year’s celebration. It was like the gloom of 2020 had left, and there was the promise of recovery.”

“Some of these patients are crying with joy afterward. They’re high-fiving us.

 

That’s not something we often get doing this type of work.”

 

Sean Nelson, MUSC Health ambulatory director for primary care

 Though vaccine quantity and delivery times have varied almost weekly, MUSC has managed to navigate the process nimbly every step of the way. To date, not one single person who was eligible to receive the vaccine and signed up to get it has been turned away. 

Scheurer and Mills are quick to point out how good communication – and trust in the people they are working with – has been the key to improving continually throughout this process. Every day, more than a dozen leaders have 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. conference calls to discuss what is happening, what needs to happen and how to make it happen. And in addition to the leaders and thousands of team members, Scheurer said they have over 550 volunteers who have given their free time to help to get people vaccinated. 

“I’ve been at MUSC for almost 15 years, and I’ve seen us take on projects and need to make changes, and it can, from time to time, be a slow and steady process,” Mills said. “This was a huge operation that we had to make work, and the fact that we did it so quickly and with relatively few hiccups is really incredible.”

Most of the vaccine sites now have extended hours – including on Saturdays – to accommodate as many people as possible. And as it turns out, the people getting the vaccines aren’t the only ones who benefit.

“Some of these patients are crying with joy afterward. They’re high-fiving us. That’s not something we often get doing this type of work,” said Sean Nelson, MUSC Health ambulatory director for primary care. Nelson said some people even come dressed in their Sunday best. “For some, this might one of the few times they’ve been out in months. They all just seem so grateful. And that energy uplifts the team.” 

With vaccine production continuing to ramp up and as more vaccines appear to be coming to the market, MUSC is poised and ready to administer as many doses as possible in the coming weeks and months. As the second largest vaccinator in the state, MUSC will continue to be a key player in the state’s health and well-being.

“We all want to get back to normal,” Mills said. “As health care providers, we care about the health of our community. But we’re regular people, too. We want to hang out with our neighbors and go to our kids’ birthday parties. We just want our lives back.”

About the Author

Bryce Donovan

Keywords: COVID-19, Features, Trending Topics