Learn more about Yukon Hospitals' COVID-19 vaccination team
Denica Christiansen and Keith Welch draw 10 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from a vial, time stamp each syringe, and prepare for the first round of vaccinations to be administered at Whitehorse General Hospital (WGH) during one of several COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
Denica and Keith are two of many nurses who worked with physicians in WGH’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics. The team was responsible for safely expediting the vaccinations of high risk health care personnel, which included nearly 600 staff, physicians, and Yukon’s EMS and Medevac teams. Their work supported the ongoing territory-wide effort to do our part keeping patients and our people safe.
The clinics began in January for those in the highest risk areas before rolling out to all personnel. They concluded March 9.
Usually a nurse in the Operating Room, Denica took a term position as Infection Control Practitioner/Occupational Health Nurse (ICP/OHN) when additional supports were needed to manage the pandemic and the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Vaccines are routine, but in a pandemic situation, it’s more intense,” says Denica. “To keep staff, patients and the public safe, the importance of infection control, hand hygiene, following proper precautions like the ‘safe 6 plus 1’ and using all available resources becomes even more critical.”
Unique opportunity after year of uncertainty
The arrival of the Moderna vaccine brought hope, relief and celebration. It signaled an important step forward after a year of change in Yukon’s Hospitals and across the territory.
As one of many tools in the fight against COVID-19, it was crucial the vaccine was quickly administered to the highest risk staff and physicians in Yukon’s hospitals. Personnel at Dawson City and Watson Lake Community Hospitals were vaccinated as part of community immunization efforts led by public health.
Denica says being part of the vaccination team was a privilege and a rewarding opportunity.
“It feels like you’re a small part of history. It’s great to know this will have a lasting impact on my coworkers, our community and territory as a whole, and people are so grateful and excited about being vaccinated.”
Behind the scenes
Denica credits the success of the clinics to the quick response and hard work from staff on both sides of the syringe.
“A lot of staff and physicians answered the bell. For the peer vaccinators—the nurses giving the needles—we had a day of training and education about the vaccine on a weekend, and the first clinic started that week. Everyone eligible for vaccines was quick to book their appointments and be on time so clinics ran as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Many physicians also went above and beyond their usual clinical duties to volunteer their time and expertise to support the clinics. They helped reduce apprehension by answering questions about the vaccine and post-vaccine care. They also contacted and registered people for appointments and tracked down anyone on wait lists to ensure every dose was used.
Quick collaboration and a focus on accessibility
Quickly providing two vaccinations for nearly 600 people on different schedules over two months required dozens of employees from several teams spanning environmental services, information services, infection control, facilities, projects, engineering, and quality and strategy.
Clinic schedules also had to accommodate staff and physicians supporting 24/7 operations.
“It’s not a flexible process,” says Denica. “We don’t work with unlimited resources, and in a pandemic situation we had to be as quick and efficient as possible to maximize the use of everything we have, including vaccines and supplies.”
“The success of these clinics required a lot of teamwork within the hospital and with our health system partners,” says Karen Girling, Director of Projects at Yukon Hospitals. “From securing and safely storing vaccines and supplies, to finding space, cleaning, scheduling, and tracking nearly 1,200 appointments, it’s truly a team effort and we can’t thank everyone enough for their continued dedication and hard work to keep everyone safe.”
Thank you to all staff and physicians who supported the vaccination rollout!
- Even with a vaccination, you could still become ill with or spread COVID-19. The vaccine is one additional tool in our fight against COVID-19.
- It’s critical to continue to practice the Safe 6 plus 1: Wear a mask, keep your distance, keep your hands clean, stay home if you feel sick, avoid crowds, travel with respect, and isolate if necessary.
- If you have questions about the Moderna vaccine, want to learn about its benefits and potential risks, or need to find more information about Yukon’s vaccine rollout plan, visit www.yukon.ca/covid-19.