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How Novant Health UVA Health System pharmacy team prepared for COVID-19 vaccines

It was the moment the world was waiting for – the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. And Jarrod Brubaker and his pharmacy team were ready.

Brubaker is system director of pharmacy services at Novant Health UVA Health System. In his role, he oversees a team of pharmacists, technicians and staff at Prince William Medical Center, Haymarket Medical Center and Culpeper Medical Center.

He joined Novant Health UVA Health System in September 2020, relocating from Oregon. Almost immediately after Brubaker introduced himself to colleagues, the team was shoring up its immunization plan, not knowing which vaccine it would receive in the months ahead.

“There were many unknowns right off the bat,” Brubaker said. “We quickly pulled together a group to align our logistics, messaging and workflow, so we could be nimble when the time came.”

Since vaccines first became available at the end of 2020, the pharmacy team has been in overdrive, vaccinating at-risk populations at long-term care facilities and pop-up clinics. Across the Prince William and Rappahannock-Rapidan health districts, Novant Health UVA Health System has vaccinated more than 20,000 [GHS1] individuals including seniors, frontline workers and schoolteachers, as of Feb. 21. According to Brubaker, the team has worked together to drive its efficiency while keeping patients safe.

“At one point, we were able to vaccinate upwards of 250 people in one hour with only about 12 vaccination stations because we had the doses ready,” Brubaker said. “It helped minimize the line of people waiting to check in because there wasn’t a backlog of people waiting to be vaccinated.”

Each clinic has been a production with many moving parts. To prepare the vaccine, the pharmacy team has, in large part, been sequestered in separate rooms to maintain the highest level of sterility. And Novant Health UVA Health System has worked diligently to ensure no dose is wasted.

“This team has stepped up,” Brubaker said. “Without the efforts of our pharmacists, technicians and volunteers, we wouldn’t be as successful.”

Brubaker highlighted the team’s upbeat attitude during a clinic in February, where more than 2,500 individuals were vaccinated. Despite working long hours, the team has kept a positive outlook and a good sense of humor. He mentioned a night shift pharmacist who picked up extra shifts to help out.

“He came over at the end of his night shift and worked an additional four hours to help with vaccine preparation before going home and sleeping for the remainder of the day,” Brubaker said. “Each day, he was so happy to be there. His daughter is a teacher and his wife is a former teacher, so he considered this his opportunity to give back to them.”

Seeing the relief on participants’ faces has been palpable as well.

“It’s extremely rewarding when you see a couple that has been on a waitlist for the last two months come in and finally get their vaccine,” Brubaker said. “They’re so appreciative of it. Those moments are why we do our jobs.”

Although some individuals have concerns about COVID-19 vaccines themselves, Brubaker has been closely monitoring the vaccine development. In fact, he felt comfortable enough with the data, he personally got the vaccine.

“The vaccine was not rushed,” Brubaker said. “They went through the exact same rigorous clinical trials and evaluations that they do for any vaccine. Each of these trials had more than 30,000 participants, and that is a large number. From that perspective, the clinical trials were extremely robust.”

While there is still work to be done and vaccines to administer, Brubaker and his team will keep striving to provide a remarkable experience from the first shot to the last.

“The level of camaraderie, support and engagement of our frontline pharmacy, nursing and administrative teams has clearly articulated why I made the right decision relocating to Virginia to join this team,” Brubaker said.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine at Novant Health UVA Health System, visit NovantHealthUVA.org/coronavirus.

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