Written by John Ferrari
Vaccinations have largely eradicated multiple diseases in the United States, including polio, tuberculosis, measles, mumps and chicken pox. Outbreaks can still occur, but high rates of vaccination effectively limit their spread. We can do the same thing with COVID-19—if enough people get vaccinated.
Nowhere is disease eradication more important than in a medical setting; that’s why Torrance Memorial started planning to ensure all employees could receive the COVID-19 vaccine ASAP even before it was released. “We started planning in December 2020,” recalls director of occupational health and safety Chris Bacon. “We knew we wanted to vaccinate everyone—every single employee. On December 20 we started our first big clinic, and after that things grew exponentially. A lot of employees wanted the vaccine immediately. Fortunately we had a lot of people volunteer to help us out.”
To overcome the vaccine hesitancy some employees felt, Bacon created a team comprising pharmacists, physicians and others to staff a helpline, ensuring employees could get answers to their questions and accurate information about the vaccine. As a result, the larger majority of the hospital’s employees are fully vaccinated.
Torrance Memorial’s efforts to vaccinate people against the potentially deadly disease didn’t end with employees though. Hospital leaders made the decision to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to community members too.
“Overall, we vaccinated more than 34,000 people,” Bacon says. “Torrance Memorial has a little less than 5,000 employees, so the rest were community members—some 29,000 people. At one point, we were vaccinating 800 people each time the hospital held a vaccination clinic."
By last summer, the COVID-19 vaccine was widely available so the community clinics were curtailed. The focus has now shifted to booster shots, where again the majority of all hospital employees have received their third dose.
Bacon is proud of the vaccination effort and proud that everyone came together as a team. “We’re like a family here,” he explains. “If there’s something that needs to be done, everyone gets together and gets it done. This was a historic thing, and everybody wanted to be a part of it. We truly did everything as a team.”