GCU vaccine site opens to public by appointment

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine was administered at the 27th Avenue commercial hub today, the first day Grand Canyon University's Point of Dispensing site opened. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

Editor's note: Get more information about the GCU vaccination site here.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Vaccine recipients remain in the observation area for 15 to 30 minutes to make sure they don't have an adverse reaction to the vaccine. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

It was a fitting end to a three-day trial run of Grand Canyon University’s new COVID-19 vaccination site.

It was the last day.

The last car.

The last remaining vaccine.

A woman with serious medical conditions had been trying desperately to get her first dose. She tried to get vaccinated at State Farm Stadium. The silvery globular events facility in Glendale, home of the Arizona Cardinals, has been transformed into a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week vaccination site. But she was unsuccessful.

Then she made it to GCU.

Marcus Castle, Emergency Preparedness Manager, said that organizing a vaccination site in just 10 days is "just what GCU does."

“She started crying. It really made us feel good that we closed it (the three-day test run) on a high note: The last vaccine. The last car. The last hour. You couldn’t have scripted it better for us,” said GCU Emergency Preparedness Manager Marcus Castle, who, after that high note, took some time off Monday – a rare day off for him these days – to prepare for the blizzard to come.

It was a moment to take a breath and pause before the University launches yet another important community endeavor, one that comes just six weeks after GCU joined with new partner CityServe International to distribute 2,100 boxes of food to those in need as part of the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Beginning today, after test runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the University’s 27th Avenue commercial hub opened as a regional Point of Dispensing site, or POD, for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Unlike other regional sites, it is unique in that it is the only vaccination location operated in partnership with Maricopa County to offer a walk-through option, by appointment, for those who may not have their own vehicle to make it a vaccination site.

GCU’s COVID vaccination site, which is open for the first week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today to Saturday at 5115 N. 27th Ave., is a major undertaking that came together in just 10 days.

Members of the public fill out paperwork before heading to the vaccination line at the walk-through area. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

Just before Christmas, Castle was in a meeting where the chatter weaved around how Maricopa County needed more volunteers at its regional PODs. One of the health care systems GCU partners with happened to reach out to Dr. Lisa Smith, Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, and by Christmas break the University’s nursing students were volunteering at those vaccination sites.

“Following that is really where the conversation started for us at GCU,” said Castle, who worked as Planning Supervisor for the Maricopa County Department of Health before coming to the University. “Those regional sites just couldn’t keep up,” so the county asked the University if it could help at its State Farm Stadium site.

That’s when Castle shared how GCU’s strength really lies in what it can do internally. So “that’s where those conversations went to – the county would just like GCU to open a point-of-dispensing site for those most vulnerable in the community.

“We would run it ourselves – do it ourselves – and not add to the burden of the county and state public health systems,” he added. “It’s just what GCU does.”

“The topic came up, and me and Marcus were, ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’” said Connie Colbert, Director of the campus’ Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic and one of the cogs in the wheel of the University’s COVID-19 Task Force. “I’m like, ‘Well, I think we should.’ It’s what GCU is all about.’”

Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic Director Connie Colbert (right) maneuvers the troops. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

After getting the green light just 10 days ago, the campus’ vaccination POD went live.

“The state of Arizona, as a whole, was able to open State Farm Stadium … anywhere from 15 to 20 days to make that happen,” Castle said. “GCU was able to do the same thing in about the same time period or less to make this happen on campus for us.”

Colbert credits the machine that is GCU for that quick turnaround time. Organizing massive events? A walk in the park.

“GCU, being who we are and the events that we have put on, like Welcome Week and things along those lines, we put this together so quickly because we got to pull on the expertise of so many people within GCU who have done large events before,” Colbert said. “They’re used to volunteer check-ins. They’re used to managing large crowds. You think about all the work that goes into a normal Welcome Week … there’s thousands of people that need to help to make it run smoothly.”

And thousands of people will be needed to make GCU’s vaccine POD run smoothly, too.

The University’s vaccine site is a five-day-a-week endeavor expected to span through the end of February, though that time frame may be extended, depending on the needs of the county. The vaccination site will run with the help of 100-150 volunteers from GCU, Grand Canyon Education and volunteer medical staff from the Maricopa County Medical Reserve Corps.

The goal is to administer from 800 to 1,000 vaccinations per day to preregistered individuals by appointment, depending on vaccine availability (register at https://podvaccine.azdhs.gov/).

“We’re working with county public health to determine the populations with the greatest need,” Colbert said.

Besides GCU’s vaccination site being unique in that it offers a walk-through option in addition to a drive-through option, what’s also different is that the University’s POD is not contracted with the state and is not receiving funds to operate the site.

GCU is the only regional Point of Dispensing site in Maricopa County that offers two options -- walk-through or drive-through. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

“GCU is doing this for the greater good of the community, and our volunteers are all the faculty, staff and students. We’re not doing it for any other reason except for that; we want our community to improve,” Castle said. “… We’re doing it because this is part of our mission. This is part of our values to serve the community in this regard.”

GCU President Brian Mueller expressed to Castle the importance of GCU getting the vaccine into the vulnerable and underserved communities near GCU. The Canyon Corridor neighborhoods around the University, home to essential workers, refugees and immigrants, have been among the hardest hit in the state by the coronavirus.

“We knew that by stepping up and taking on this mission, that was going to be the fastest way to support the community around us,” Castle said.

As he prepared for today, the first day GCU’s COVID vaccination POD will be open, and as he reflects on the enormity of the tasks and the days ahead, he thinks, too, about that woman who cried when she got her shot.

“You’ll have the opportunity just to see people happy to receive the vaccine. That’s an important piece for me,” Castle said.

And for the University.

GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.

***

How to sign up

  • For information on how to schedule a vaccine appointment for a family member, go to podvaccine.azdhs.gov. (Note that the GCU vaccination site closes down after slots are full and may not appear as a vaccination site choice when that happens; check back daily, however, as new appointments will open up).
  • For other questions: email [email protected]

***

Related content

GCU POD Site Information Page

GCU Today: GCU becomes vaccination site for COVID-19

AZFamily.com: GCU vaccination site with walk-through services now open

ABC15: Coronavirus vaccination site to open at Grand Canyon University on Jan. 26

Calendar

Calendar of Events

M Mon

T Tue

W Wed

T Thu

F Fri

S Sat

S Sun

3 events,

2 events,

1 event,

3 events,

3 events,

5 events,

3 events,

1 event,

2 events,

0 events,

1 event,

0 events,

1 event,

2 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

3 events,

5 events,

0 events,

2 events,

1 event,

0 events,

3 events,

3 events,

3 events,

1 event,

0 events,

GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/