A Day at the Forum
“A Day at the Forum” is a diary of volunteering at one of Los Angeles county COVID-19 vaccination mega-centers.
Date: January 23, 2021
Time: 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Location: The Forum, 3900 W Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90305
As a believer in mass vaccination to stop the coronavirus pandemic, I decided to volunteer in one of the Los Angeles largest vaccination centers, the Inglewood Forum.
Why the Forum?
The Forum is close to my neighborhood, and I have a great appreciation for it after watching the Lakers play in its arena before the they moved to the Staples Center in 1999. At the Forum, basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar won 5 championships in 14 seasons he played with the Lakers. There were few other places as iconic as the forum that brought the Los Angeles community together, and it felt symbolic that vaccines were being distributed there to protect Los Angeles residents.
The right political decisions at the perfect time!
On January 4, 2021, the Dental Board of California (DBC) issued the following statement:
“Pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order N-39-20, during the State of Emergency, the Director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs may waive any statutory or regulatory professional licensing requirements and amend scopes of practice pertaining to individuals licensed pursuant to Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, including dentists.”
This statement allowed dentists and other healthcare professionals who are able to give vaccine shots to do so under an emergency order by the governor of California, Gavin Newson. Dentists in California welcomed this order, as they believe their knowledge and experience would allow them to expand the vaccination effort and more quickly reach those who are still waiting for a vaccine. Of course, additional training is needed to get dentists familiar with the new vaccines administration and potential adverse effects. After completing the recommended training, I was ready to get on the ground and join the vaccination team.
Are dentists qualified to administer vaccines and manage vaccines immediate adverse effects?
Although I value the opportunity to vaccinate others, I was curious regarding why a political order by the governor was needed to legalize a professional duty allowing dentists to administer the corona vaccines. Dentists learn to recognize and manage medical emergencies in dental office setting. Dentist give shots in more sensitive and anatomical challenging area than the vaccination area. Every dental office should possess emergency kit containing epinephrine, antihistamine and other medications and tools to manage serious medical emergencies such as anaphylactic chock, heart attack and stroke.
Dentists in California are also mandated to have continuing education(CE) courses every 2 years on recognizing and managing medical emergencies. Dentists clearly demonstrate a level of clinical skills that exceed those required to administer vaccines, and I strongly believe that this emergency order by our governor allowing dentists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine should change to a permanent decision.
Before the Volunteering Day!
I received emails with links to training videos on how to administer the vaccines and manage immediate post vaccination adverse effects. QR codes were also emailed to the volunteers to give them access to the vaccination site.
I check in the designated location at 7:30 am. Registration, orientation and instructions by the site leaders were clear and informative. We were divided into two groups of volunteers with different responsibilities. The clinical group who screen people, administer the vaccine and monitors and manage the vaccinated for possible adverse effects. The second group are the none-clinical supporting group. I find myself fit in the group who manage post vaccination adverse effects.
During the briefing, there was moments of interruptions by airplanes flying low over our heads while preparing to land at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is only 2 miles away.
The airplanes were not the only things we saw flying over our heads. We were also graced with the beautiful sight of immigrating birds passing over us.
Women were running the show!
My group was comprised of 9 volunteers– an internist, a pediatrician, a physician assistant, three nurses and three dentists including myself. Only two men were in my group, and the rest were women. In fact, the majority who were running the vaccination process were women.
Cars were lining up before 7:00am, although the vaccination process started as planned at 9:00 am through a drive through process. At the Forum, only the Pfizer vaccine was provided.
It Was a Rainy Day!
The vaccination process was smooth with little delay because of the rain. The average time people spend waiting in line before vaccinated was one hour. Surprisingly, none of them were bothered by the wait, one person jokingly said that she got hungry while waiting. We agreed that she should bring some snacks with her when she came for her second shot. People were visibly happy to be vaccinated.
For a few, this was the second shot they had received. The LA County Department of Public Health allowed only health care workers and people over 65 years old to be vaccinated at this time.
Lunch was provided at no cost. The choices were green salad, chicken salad, and tuna salad. Handmade cookies and water bottles were available too. Social distancing was practiced during lunch, and workers alternate their lunch time so that the vaccination process is not interrupted.
A Day at the Forum – The Afternoon!
At around 2:00 pm, the sun started shining, and the cars lined up for vaccination shrunk considerably. Those who show up after 2 pm has less than a 10 minute waiting time before they received their vaccines.
The vaccinated folks were divided into 2 groups per the screening physicians. The high risk group got red stickers on the windshields of their cars, while the low risk group got blue stickers. People in the high risk group were asked to drive to a designated area and wait for 30 minutes before they are allowed to leave. The low risk individuals were asked to wait only 15 minutes before leaving.
People were happy to be vaccinated and appreciative to the workers who helped to make the vaccination possible.
A Touching Story
I asked a lady in her eighties how she felt after getting the vaccine.
“I feel great,” she said, then responding, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course, this is what I am here for,” I replied.
“Can I see my grandkids after today? I haven’t see them since the beginning of the pandemic, and I missed them a lot.”
I could hear the loneliness in her voice, and as much as I wanted her to reunite with her grandchildren, I recognize that receiving the vaccine does not allow us to disregard the pandemic completely. “Better to wait after the second shot. Even though you got the vaccine, you should continue using a face mask and practice social distancing.”
Post Vaccination Complications!
There is a lot of online discourse regarding the adverse effects that cause many to be resistant to get the vaccine. Personally, I got my vaccine 3 weeks ago with very mild pain in the shot area that lasted for a day or so. Today, I have the opportunity to observe and find out about the short-term side effects associated with the COVID-19 vaccine. I was in the group who watched and helped anyone who develop post vaccination adverse effects.
According to our site manager, we vaccinated about 2500 people of different ages and ethnicities. in the following lines, I will be talking about our clinical findings while helping in “A Day at the Forum”.
The adverse effects:
- Two elderly women reported feeling light-headed. Their blood pressure was taken and was lower than the normal. One of them is diabetic with high blood pressure and the other has cardiac problems. The diabetic woman didn’t eat for the last 18 hours before getting the vaccine and she didn’t take her medications. Both patients were managed successfully by putting reclining their chairs backwards. The woman who didn’t eat for 18 hours took a sugar gel that she carry with her all the time. Both ladies were dismissed in good shape after confirming that the blood pressure was within the normal range and they felt well enough to drive themselves home.
- Two women in there 60s felt peri-oral numbness (numbness around the mouth) that lasted 20-25 minutes, but it went a way without medication.
- A young man has incurred fast heart beats that went back to normal in less than 30 minutes without intervention.
- Two people reported feeling temporal headache that started few minutes after getting the vaccine. Both reported that the headache started going a way after about 15 minutes.
- One patient felt tightness in her shoulder muscles, sh was managed by asking her daughter who was driving her to massage her mother’s shoulder.
- One patient reported feeling tightness on her eyes muscles without blurred vision. We asked her to close her eyes and relax for few minutes. After doing so, her symptoms improved, and she drove herself home.
- A young female felt tightness on her chest and difficulty breathing but no other symptom. Paramedics were called and transferred the patient to a local hospital for observation. I don’t have further information on this patient.
Most adverse effects were in women!
A noticeable fact is that almost all reported incidences were in women except for one man in his 30s. The adverse effects were largely minor, and none were life-threatening.
I appreciate the effort by healthcare workers and organizations in their fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. It requires a massive collective effort from everyone to put a limit to this pandemic, and I am grateful for the chance to contribute.
Edited By: Zain Khalifeh
Written by: Mohammad Khalifeh, DDS, MS,
Your Nextdoor Miracle Mile dentist, TMJ specialist and Los Angeles Orofacial pain specialist.
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