Vaccine needle, sitting on a table, with bead of liquid coming out of the needle.

How Portable Medical Facilities Can Assist With Distributing the COVID-19 Vaccine

Since March 2020, healthcare providers have faced overwhelming demand for COVID-19 treatment and testing.

But what often goes unnoticed are the creative solutions they’ve used to meet those demands. For example, several hospitals teamed up with college campuses across the U.S. to use vacant dorms for patient overflow. This thoughtful and innovative solution helped bring relief to overtaxed healthcare facilities. 

Similarly, many healthcare providers met the need for increased COVID-19 testing with a combination of smartphone application assessments and drive-through testing centers

Now several months later, we need to start thinking creatively again. 

After an emergency authorization by the FDA on December 11, 2020, the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were rolled out. As more vaccine supplies become available, a new wave of demand is likely to swamp healthcare facilities. 

This leaves healthcare providers wondering how to distribute COVID-19 vaccines quickly and effectively to such a large population.

Planning Ahead for How to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines

It’s crucial for organizations and those in leadership roles to start planning their approach to mass vaccination now (if they haven’t already).

The major difference between the onset of the pandemic and today is organizations no longer have the element of surprise working against them. So they can take advantage of this acquired knowledge to start preparing. 

Planning early can help healthcare organizations with the following:

  • Get protective gear for staff.
  • Train staff on administering the vaccine.
  • Acquire equipment to store vaccines at precise temperatures.
  • Develop a workflow for vaccine distribution.

Why Quick and Effective Vaccine Distribution Matters

When the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, it is crucial to administer it as quickly and widely as possible. 

Acting swiftly and effectively in vaccination will help to:

  • Develop herd immunity.
  • Prevent the further spread of the virus.
  • Lower mortality rates.

How to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines Effectively

One approach to distributing vaccines could be taking the traditional route. That is, patients can make an appointment with a healthcare provider to be vaccinated during an office visit. 

But if we’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s that this approach quickly overtaxes the healthcare system. 

Alternatively, healthcare organizations can draw on some of the more innovative solutions for vaccination distribution. Drive-through vaccination centers are a promising option

Consider Individuals Without Vehicles

Drive-through vaccination centers are a quick and efficient option for many. But they may not be suited for densely packed cities prone to traffic pile-ups. Plus, many individuals seeking vaccination in the city may not have access to a personal vehicle.

In the U.S., just over 93% of households have access to at least one vehicle. However, to ensure healthcare organizations are distributing the COVID-19 vaccine ethically and equitably, they should not turn away those without access to a vehicle.

Although only a small percentage of Americans do not have access to a car, this represents nearly 11 million people across the nation. These Americans may have to use public transport, taxis, or even have to walk to a vaccination site. 

So healthcare providers should consider creating walk-up vaccination stations using portable medical facilities. BLU-MED Response Systems® (BLU-MED) state-of-the-art portable medical facilities provide an ideal solution.

Benefits of Portable Medical Facilities for COVID-19 Vaccination Centers

Portable medical facilities from BLU-MED are a great alternative to quickly establishing a vaccination center compared to other methods.

Safer for Everyone

When dealing with a highly contagious virus, social distancing is crucial for keeping people safe. Someone seeking a COVID-19 vaccination should not have to worry about contracting the virus while waiting to be vaccinated.

By installing a devoted center for vaccinations outside of your hospital’s main building, the density of waiting rooms decreases. This makes it easier to maintain social distancing protocols, and keep everyone safer.

Protection from the Elements

Many hospitals opted for using party tents or pop-up canopies as surge facilities in the summer months. However, as we start to experience more and more harsh winter weather, these options may no longer be viable or safe.

Facilities must protect healthcare professionals, patients, and vaccination supplies from freezing cold, high winds, and snow. This becomes possible with engineered medical facilities from BLU-MED, which are built to withstand inclement weather and can be equipped with environmental control units to ensure year-round comfort.

[Related: Guide to Creating Space for Medical Surge]

How to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines Quickly and Effectively

There are a couple of steps to start distributing COVID-19 vaccines quickly and effectively.

Find the Right Site

First, organizations should find a suitable site for their vaccination clinic. For instance, it might be important to consider availability of a Wi-Fi connection. This allows healthcare personnel to retrieve or enter electronic medical information when necessary. 

Decide on Required Number of Stations 

Vaccination centers for COVID-19 may require multiple stations. In other words, patients will walk-up to different structures for each part of the vaccination visit. 

For example, various structures might be used for:

  • Patient admission to collect the names of patients, their proof of identification, and their insurance information
  • Walk-up vaccination portal where individuals can receive quick and safe vaccination
  • Secure storage for vaccination supplies and staff personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Private staff facilities for staff to put on / change out of PPE and medical scrubs
  • Staff support facility where staff can eat, take breaks, and use the bathroom

Choose a Safe and Durable Structure

Local and state healthcare organizations have several options when it comes to choosing the correct structures for their vaccination stations. Common structures include:

  • Pop-up canopies
  • Party tents
  • Expandable or shipping containers
  • Inflatable medical shelters
  • Portable medical facilities

Party Tents & Pop-up Canopies

Pop-up style canopies and party tents are usually easy and quick to install; however, they have several drawbacks. They do not:

  • Protect against harsh weather.
  • Have temperature control.
  • Offer durability for prolonged use.
  • Provide reuse or retain long-term value.

Shipping Containers and Expandable Containers

On the other hand, using expandable or shipping containers solves the problem of durability. But this option has its own drawbacks, including:

  • Costly and time-consuming shipping (typically one container per truck load)
  • Requires heavy equipment to lift and place the containers in the correct locations, especially in confined spaces
  • Setup time usually takes 1-2 hours before fully operational
  • Lacks the ability to easily relocate

Inflatable Medical Shelters

While the ability to attach your medical shelter to an air pump and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes while it inflates sounds like a good idea, there are many drawbacks to using inflatable medical shelters, including:

  • Cannot safely be used in areas with heavy snow and high winds. This is also true for helicopter down wash, if located near a hospital’s landing zone.
  • Requires the constant running of the air pump to remain inflated. This is costly and noisy.
  • Without backup power, should an interruption of service occur, the inflatable medical shelter will deflate — posing a safety hazard to occupants and equipment inside. 
  • Are easily damaged and, if punctured, may require replacing the entire shelter.


Portable Medical Facilities

Alternatively, portable medical facilities from BLU-MED offer a creative and modern solution for how to distribute COVID-19 vaccines quickly and effectively. They are ideal because: 

  • Low weight and cube shipping saves on logistics and time.
  • They are rapidly deployable. The BLU-MED XP Medical Shelter is capable of being set up and operational in less than 10 minutes.
  • Can be securely anchored to virtually any level surface (including asphalt and concrete).
  • Military-grade medical facilities designed for long-lasting durability.
  • Tensioned fabric membrane and high-strength metal frame system creates a weatherproof medical shelter.
  • Engineered to withstand specific wind and snow loads for safety. 
  • Can be designed to withstand helicopter down wash for safety.
  • Insulated and temperature-controlled medical facilities provide a safe working environment for staff, patients, and equipment for administering the COVID vaccine. 

[Related: Setting Up a Trauma Center]

Using Portable Medical Facilities for Vaccination Centers

Using portable medical facilities for vaccination centers allows healthcare providers to distribute COVID-19 vaccines safely, quickly, effectively, and equitably. 

BLU-MED’s deployable medical shelters will meet the needs of your organization’s COVID vaccination plan. These structures are thoughtfully designed to be a superior alternative to party tents, pop-up canopies, expandable and shipping containers, and inflatable medical shelters. 

Here are some of their many advantages.

Extremely Durable

Our structures are made of the highest-quality materials available and engineered to meet your area’s weather needs, including protection against:

  • Hot or cold temperatures
  • Prolonged sun exposure
  • Rain
  • Snow
  • Hail

Rapid Setup

With our engineered fabric structures, you will be able to assemble your vaccination center in as little as 30 minutes (depending on the model, building size, and engineering requirement to meet code). They can be installed on any level surface using a trained four-person crew. 

If your healthcare organization does not want to leave the center in place long-term, it can be taken down just as quickly as it is set up. 

Plus, its low-cube storage makes it easy to store away for future use. This feature also makes shipping very cost-effective.

Purposefully Designed

All BLU-MED medical shelters were purposely designed to make the jobs of healthcare professionals as simple as possible. For instance, your portable medical facilities can be designed with negative-pressure isolation rooms that minimize the spread of airborne infectious agents, such as COVID-19. 

Highly Customizable Medical Shelters

Different vaccination centers will have different needs based on several factors, including the location, the number of staff members, and the volume of patients. For this reason, our portable medical facilities are highly customizable. 

Our portable medical shelters  can be designed to include side entries with clear safety curtains to create multi-line vaccination stations, allowing patients to walk up, slip their arm through an opening, and quickly receive the COVID vaccine. Alternatively, privacy curtains and partitions can be used inside the medical shelter to create different spaces for patient registration, waiting areas, and COVID-19 vaccine stations. Insulation and ruggedized HVAC system options are also available to protect staff and walk-in patients from the cold and other adverse weather.

[Related: Key Elements of Pandemic-Ready Healthcare Facilities]

Don’t Wait to Plan Your Walk-Up Vaccination Center

Healthcare organizations and municipal governments wondering how to rapidly distribute COVID-19 vaccines can get started today. They can be best prepared by obtaining their vaccination structures as soon as possible. 

After all, portable medical facilities can be easily stored. By having these structures on hand early, it will ensure that the vaccination center can open immediately as soon as a vaccine is available. 

Contact us today to discuss your medical shelter and COVID-19 vaccine station needs.