After more than a year and a half, the George Washington University (GW) Medical Faculty Associates (MFA) COVID-19 Vaccine Center (GW Vaccine Center) gave its last jab against the pandemic on Aug. 5, 2022. The center will no longer be offering COVID-19 vaccines following the conclusion of its operations grant from the DC Department of Health (DC Health). To find a vaccine center in your area, please visit Vaccines.gov.
Since hitting the ground running in January 2021, the GW Vaccine Center operated four locations throughout the city, under the guidance of Erik Lesnewsky, EMT, clinical leader at GW MFA; Alexander Poulose, MHA, administrative manager in the Department of Emergency Medicine; Andrew Maurano, PA-C, associate clinical professor of emergency medicine; Derek Andresen, MS, program manager for Innovative Practice, Department of Emergency Medicine. GW launched the vaccine center at Lerner Family Health and Wellness before moving to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. After the need for mass vaccination sites wound down, operations moved back to the Foggy Bottom area.
Through Andresen and Maurano, several high-capacity events and a series of spot clinics were held across the District. Funding for all the locations came through a DC Health grant that was renewable every six months.
“We have been lucky to be a recipient [of the DC Health grant] for over a year, which took the financial burden of running the vaccine center out of the equation,” Andresen said, adding that with so many residents vaccinated, the need is greatly diminished.
According to the DC Department of Health, 99% of District residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 79% have completed their primary series doses. Among those vaccinated in D.C., roughly 90,000 received their shots at one of the GW Vaccine Center locations.
“As with all things with COVID-19, the vaccine rollout was a whirlwind,” recalled Andresen. “Our first experience working with DC Health was on New Year’s Eve 2020. We were asked to vaccinate 350 ‘phase 1’ health care workers who had appointments through the DC Health portal.”
The city turned to the GW MFA when it realized its site would not be operational in time to vaccinate those initial frontline health care workers. “They came to us two days before and asked if we could do it,” Andresen said. “Looking back, it was one of the most satisfying days I have ever had at work, and most of the people that worked that day thanked me for the opportunity [to provide vaccinations].”
Not long after that successful vaccination event, DC Health learned they would receive 3,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They turned to the GW MFA, and in just three days Andresen and his team organized more than 120 student, faculty, and staff volunteers from GW’s academic clinical enterprise to help DC Health administer the vaccines to District residents at the convention center. The “high capacity” event held in Washington, D.C., and GW volunteers vaccinated approximately 2,500 people.