Sunderesh Heragu: Biden's COVID mass vaccination push needs to get creative — drive-thru sites are ideal

Bill Hemmer reports latest U.S. vaccination numbers

Fox News’ Bill Hemmer provides updates on the number of Americans who have received COVID-19 vaccines.

President Biden’s push to get COVID-19 vaccinations into the arms of Americans quickly, efficiently and safely has proven to be a lofty goal. While more than 60 million vaccinations have been given since January 20, having to vaccinate another 200 million adults with the additional pressures of the country wanting to open up sooner rather than later, means the Biden administration needs to get creative. New research shows pop-up vaccination drive-thrus are the answer.

Mass drive-thru vaccination sites, if set up nationwide, could increase the number of Americans vaccinated in a shorter period of time. In fact, with uninterrupted supplies, 350 million doses could be given in the next 100 days via drive-thrus. That would put the country way ahead of President Biden’s goal, covering much of the adult population.

In 2009, the ongoing threat of H1N1 was a global health concern and one that was eventually declared a pandemic. Louisville, Kentucky became home to one of the world’s largest drive-thru vaccination clinics, administering 12,000 H1N1 vaccines in a day and a half.

Shawn Brown, right, receives the second does of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from a volunteer worker at left, at a mass vaccination clinic at Seattle University, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In this case, 762 people were able to get vaccinated per hour. At mass COVID-19 vaccination sites currently open, typically only 1,000 to 2,000 vaccines are given a day, although there are plans to ramp this up.

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Based on research published in the INFORMS Journal on Applied Analytics, the United States can model Louisville’s approach on a national scale, transforming the trajectory of the pandemic.

Breaking down the math, a mass vaccination site needs to be established at each of the 350 population centers in the country with more than 100,000 people, with vaccination services running every day of the week for eight hours a day.

Doing that would result in 10,000 vaccines in the arm a day per drive-thru location. This can be broken down further to the number of tents, nurses, etc. that are needed. It’s a foolproof and fully calculated way to increase the vaccinations across the country and arm more Americans against COVID-19.

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Long story short, making this research plan a reality can more than triple the number of vaccines distributed.

These drive-thru vaccination sites not only increase the number of shots reaching Americans’ arms, but they also provide a sense of convenience and assurance for patients.

The pandemic has made drive-thru options for groceries, banking, entertainment, voting and other parts of everyday life accessible and a force of habit. There is no reason vaccine distribution cannot work the same way and reap the same benefits. In fact, as mentioned previously, it has worked!

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First, the spread of COVID-19 will be minimized because people who have the virus—whether they are symptomatic or not—have fewer opportunities to pass on the virus to others in a drive-thru clinic than in a walk-up clinic.

Similarly, people who do not have the virus have a much lower probability of contracting the virus because they do not encounter other patients throughout the process.

Second, people who have difficulty standing for extended periods of time are comfortably seated in their own vehicle. The convenience of waiting in the vehicle is preferred by many patients.

In fact, the Louisville example indicated that even when the wait time at the walk-up clinic was zero or near zero, and the vehicle lines were long in the drive-thru clinic, people preferred to still use the drive-thru clinic.

Lastly, in the event of a large-scale vaccination system being necessary, like the situation we find ourselves in today, drive-thru vaccination clinics could offer higher yields in vaccinations in a shorter period of time compared to traditional walk-up clinics.

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COVID-19 has led to countless disruptions in all of our lives over the past year. The implementation of drive-thru vaccination sites across the country could lessen the burden on individuals to get themselves vaccinated while making this necessary process safer, easier and more efficient.

If the Biden administration wants to do everything in its power to get as many Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible, they will turn to drive-thru vaccination sites as the next big step towards herd immunity, while continuing to vaccinate people in traditional modes at pharmacies, community centers, health clinics, and hospitals.

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