UW Medicine achieved two milestones on Wednesday, March 3 in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
A worker administered the healthcare system’s 100,000th dose of COVID-19 vaccine; the recipient was Wanda Herndon. The 100,000 figure includes first and second doses and both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech formulations.
Scientists processed the Virology Laboratory’s 2 millionth polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect SARS-CoV-2 from a patient sample.
“For the past year, our clinicians, researchers and technicians have given immense effort to keep our community healthy amid this pandemic,” said Cynthia Dold, associate vice president of clinical operations for UW Medicine, in a news release. “We are tremendously grateful to our staff members, who have contributed energy, expertise and ingenuity. They have worked long hours and shown extraordinary grace in this time of great duress.”
The health system’s first vaccines were administered on Dec. 15 to first responders and clinical staff. Vaccine clinics were rapidly established at UW Medical Center (Montlake and Northwest campuses), Harborview Medical Center and Valley Medical Center (Renton). Today, vaccine recipients are community members who qualify under Phase 1B of Washington state’s distribution plan.
“We’re very proud of the nurses and medical students and the many volunteers who have helped us vaccinate community members,” said Dr. Shireesha Dhanireddy, director of the Infectious Diseases Clinic at Harborview Medical Center. “Our vaccine clinics were mobilized very quickly, and credit also goes to facilities and IT teams for creating physical spaces that function well for staff and prioritize patient safety.”
Dold also noted the teamwork and dedication that clinicians showed when a freezer malfunctioned at Kaiser-Permanente Washington and 1,600 doses had to be administered or the vials would expire. UW Medicine and Swedish took the allotments and staff kept vaccine clinics running past midnight to ensure no doses were wasted. As well, during the recent snowstorm that snarled Seattle traffic, staff at all four UW Medicine clinics insisted on staying open to vaccinate anyone who could keep their appointment.
Kent, Des Moines outreach
In ongoing efforts to reach populations for whom the burden of COVID-19 has been high, UW Medicine is collaborating with the City of Seattle, Public Health–Seattle & King County, and other partners to get vaccines to Black communities, people of color and people with limited English proficiency.
This weekend, staff will administer 500 vaccinations to eligible patients at the UW Neighborhood Clinic in Kent/Des Moines.
“We know there’s a lot of work ahead,” Dhanireddy said. “Over the next several months, UW Medicine is committed to working with our partners to ensure our most vulnerable community members get vaccinated.”
The Virology Lab’s count shows more than 2 million specimens received for SARS-CoV-2 testing as of Feb. 24. Dr. Geoff Baird, interim chair of laboratory medicine and pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, was amused to see the “error” message in red; last fall, he had reported the same software flaw to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services when the lab exceeded 1 million tests.
Another milestone was reached Feb. 26 when UW Medicine’s Virology Lab processed its 2 millionth PCR diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2. More than a year ago, upon news of a novel virus spreading quickly in China, lab scientists developed a novel assay to detect SARS-CoV-2 and began seeking U.S. approval on Feb. 1 to deploy it on patient samples. Upon approval from the Food and Drug Administration, scientists conducted the lab’s first test on a patient swab on March 2 and within two weeks were processing thousands of diagnostic tests every day.
“The Virology Laboratory’s efforts to address the needs of the community in the COVID-19 pandemic have been nothing short of heroic,” Baird said. “I am incredibly proud of our team – hundreds of individuals who have enabled us to deliver the most accurate testing available since the critical early days of the pandemic, with the fastest turnaround time for results of any large-scale community testing lab in Washington state.”