Meridian, Open Door begin COVID-19 vaccination clinics. Here’s how to get your appointment

From The Star Press

MUNCIE, Ind. — As Delaware County approaches 9,000 COVID-19 cases, two more local health care providers have been added to the state’s vaccination site list.

Meridian Health Services and Open Door Health Services, both categorized as Federal Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), began their vaccination clinics this week.

Each location received 800 Moderna vaccines for the week; future shipments will depend on demand in the area and availability within the state.

Currently, frontline workers and those in the community who are 70 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine. As at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital and the Delaware County Health Department, an appointment is required to receive a vaccine. Appointments can be made at or by calling 211.

Here is a closer look at how each new location’s vaccine clinic is doing:

Before officially beginning its vaccine clinic on Thursday morning, Open Door held a test run, vaccinating a group of team members and a few others, on Wednesday afternoon.

Vaccinations will be available by appointment 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday, at Open Door’s 333 S. Madison St. location.

CEO Bryan Ayars said he was pleased with how the test run went, as it allowed providers to see what was working and what was slowing down the process.

“The state really wants everybody to sign up online or at the 211 number. It will help track who is getting another vaccine and how much vaccine to get, but also, it makes the process a lot easier,” Ayars said. “You can get in and out of here in less than half an hour if you’re pre-registered and have no reaction.”

Appointments for Thursday and Friday were full at Open Door, with the clinic at about 90% occupancy, meaning that each day, about 150 people would be vaccinated.

Twenty-eight days from now, when those getting their vaccines this week will be coming back for their second shot, ISDH wants Open Door to obligate 70% of the incoming vaccines to the second dose, and only 30% to the new dose, Ayars said. He added that if there is not an increase in supply, it will slow down the number of those receiving a first dose.

“The state is right in that we need a tight system (in scheduling), and if we wander outside of that system, they’re not, at this point, able to guarantee that we will have second doses of vaccines to cover those that are in addition to the count,” Ayars said.

Ashley Wilson, director of clinical operations, said training for administering vaccines also went well. Open Door team members will be the ones to give vaccines at the clinic.

“We spent almost a full day training staff,” Wilson said. “We did a demonstration and then everybody had to check off on COVID vaccine administration, as well as being able to state risk factors, and then giving the patient education after the vaccine.”

There was also training for adverse reactions, particularly anaphylaxis, for which members were able to practice with an EpiPen.

Once patients arrive at Open Door for their appointments, Wilson said they will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the front door. If they turn out to be positive, their vaccine will have to be rescheduled.

After being screened, patients will be directed to the elevator and head downstairs to the clinic. They’ll check in at a front desk with their ID and insurance card and then be moved to a vaccine station. Like all other clinics, they will be moved to a waiting area for 15 minutes to be monitored for any reactions. Before leaving, a second appointment will be made.

For those who cannot make it to the clinic, Open Door is working on a way to take the vaccines on the road to various places around Delaware County. Wilson said there are still some logistical issues with getting out into the more rural areas and utilizing the provider’s mobile unit, and currently, they are waiting for guidance from the ISDH.

“It’s important to go to the people. We have folks who may be home-bound or may have difficulties coming to the doctor or coming to the facility to be vaccinated,” Wilson said. “If we can get locations in the community that those people are already visiting, like food pantries or schools, then it’s more convenient for the people, and hopefully it will help improve the health of the population as a whole.”

As the ISDH expands eligibility and vaccines become more available, Ayars hopes to develop a wait list for those who might be readily available for a vaccination to fill in a spot that is suddenly vacant. This ensures leftover opened vaccine are utilized at the end of the day.

“There are 100 reasons to get a vaccine and very few not to,” Ayars said. “The more that get the vaccine, the more we’re helping people around us, and the sooner we get the economy back on track, and the sooner we get to some sort of normalcy.”

Meridian one of few in state to offer drive-thru

Meridian Health Services kicked off its vaccine clinic on Tuesday morning with about 90 people receiving their vaccine. Most of them only had to wait 15 minutes after the dose and there were no adverse reactions.

Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday at the Suzanne Gresham Center, 3620 W. White River Blvd., Meridian’s clinic is one of few in the state that functions as a drive-thru.

When the vaccine recipient arrives, a nurse and registration person will approach the vehicle. Patients never have to leave their car, and once the vaccine is administered, they will asked to pull their car over for the 15-minute waiting period. They will then be registered for their second dose.

Following the first dose, the ISDH appointment website will follow up with quick survey questions to see how patients are feeling after the vaccine and provide sites with other COVID-19 information.

“The process went well of having them wait in their car. Many commented on the fact that they appreciated being able to do that, and not having to get out of their car and go in anywhere,” said Lisa Suttle, regional vice president of clinical services.

Due to colder weather on Wednesday, the clinic was moved indoors. Suttle said the drive-thru option will remain flexible, depending on weather and if a person has previously had a reaction to a vaccine. The colder weather has actually made it easier to store the vaccine, which has to be kept frozen upon arrival at clinics and then refrigerated before use, Suttle said.

Whenever the clinic moves inside, Suttle said there will be clearly marked signs in the parking lot, indicating whether patients should drive through the tent or go inside.

Next week, Meridian will be able to open three more vaccine clinics around the state, located in Anderson, Rushville and Dunkirk. The locations are primary care sites and will operate inside those buildings, not as a drive-thru.

Suttle said additional sites will be opening in the following week.

“For me, it’s really exciting to see the quickness. As a nurse, it’s what we look for, the quick turnaround, the quick outcome and just getting things moving,” Suttle said. “That’s been really nice to see.”

Suttle said prior to appointments, many are asking what to expect when they receive the first vaccine, especially when it comes to side effects.

Based on how her own team has felt after receiving their doses, Suttle said most side effects are mild, may happen after the first vaccination or the second. Most symptoms have only lasted for a few hours and can be relieved with Tylenol or Motrin.

“We just want to encourage people to ask questions and talk with their direct provider if they have any concerns about anything that’s going on with them individually,” Suttle said.

How to schedule a vaccine

To make an appointment, Indiana residents who are 70 or older can do so at by clicking the tab, “Find a vaccination site,” at the top of the page.

Health care providers can make appointments for individuals wanting a vaccine. An appointment through the state website or phone number is required, and patients cannot just walk in.

A map and list of counties will then display vaccination sites closest to the person, and then they can choose a site and register for a date and time. When scheduling an appointment, the website will ask questions to make sure individuals meet the eligibility criteria.

Those who have issues online or who would rather make an appointment by phone can call 211. The call center will be open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, including weekends.

COVID-19 vaccines are free. Family members may make appointments for seniors, and the second appointment will be made during the first appointment. When attending appointments, those getting vaccinated need to provide a photo ID and possibly a health insurance or Medicare card. Masks should be worn to appointments.

Health officials advise that those who arrive early should wait in their cars until their scheduled time.