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Drive-thru vaccine site at Convention Center hums on first day

Updated May 5, 2021 - 7:37 pm

With demand for COVID-19 vaccinations dwindling, public health authorities in the Las Vegas Valley are trying something new here: drive-thru inoculation sites.

Clark County and Southern Nevada Health District officials debuted on Tuesday the valley’s first large-scale, drive-thru site at the Las Vegas Convention Center, a development announced Monday.

Another drive-thru site will open at Texas Station in North Las Vegas on May 11.

“We’re trying to find out what works and what our community needs, so that we can get to the magic 60 percent,” said the health district’s Jonathan Wiercinski, referring to the county’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

County officials are requiring 60 percent of the community to get a first dose of vaccine before they lift business occupancy and social distancing requirements. About 47 percent of residents have gotten their first doses so far, according to the health district.

Drive-thru sites weren’t offered sooner locally because their operations are more complex and less efficient than those of indoor sites, said Wiercinski, who oversees site operations for the district.

Motorists said they appreciated the chance to get a shot without getting out of their cars.

“It’s definitely more comfortable,” said 22-year-old Jenna Nye after receiving her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine while sitting in the driver’s seat of her bubble-gum pink Tesla.

As she spoke with a reporter, Nye was approached by a medical team with a stretcher who asked her if she was feeling OK. The extra attention was because Nye had reported feeling extremely nauseated and fatigued after receiving her first shot.

After Nye told them she felt fine, she was asked to drive to a separate area where people with potential sensitivity to vaccine were asked to wait 30 minutes, rather than the customary 15 minutes, in case they experienced a more serious side effect.

“Everybody’s been awesome,” Nye said.

Her only quibble was that it took her about 90 minutes to get a shot.

Site officials were “making tweaks on the fly” to cut down on wait times and improve operations, said site manager Travis Haldeman, who described Tuesday’s launch as a “soft opening.”

Haldeman, a Clark County Fire Department engineer, said the goal is to reduce wait times to less than an hour.

All of the day’s roughly 600 appointments were filled, he said. The site has the capacity to grow to 1,000 or more appointments if the demand is there.

Berlyn Soto, 34, of Henderson said she chose the drive-thru option to avoid “a lot of contact with other people” during the vaccination process.

Soto, who works in convention set-up, said that for her, being vaccinated means that she “can go back to work.” She said she waited about 75 minutes to get her shot.

People arriving without appointments were urged to walk to an indoors vaccination clinic at the convention center, which will continue to operate along with the drive-thru site.

The drive-thru site, operating Tuesdays through Saturdays, is accessible off of Sierra Vista Drive near Paradise Road. Vaccinations are free.

The other mass vaccination site in the county, at Cashman Center in downtown Las Vegas, will close Wednesday.

Appointments for all valley vaccination clinics are available at www.snhd.info/covid-vaccine.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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