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Inside the Esch/Belval vaccination centre

 

published on 11 May 2021

At the end of April, the Luxembourg Government announced the start of the phase 6 during which people aged 16 to 55 will have a chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Many of our colleagues at the University of Luxembourg will soon get their invitation and thus we were interested to see how things work at the Esch/Belval vaccination centre. Who checks the appointments? Who gives the injection? Who watches over the vaccinated patients? Read our report from the Esch/Belval vaccination centre as the campaign is set to intensify in the coming weeks.

 

The vaccination process starts already in the homes of Luxembourg’s residents who upon reception of the invitation need to book an appointment online. The process with a personal access code in the letter resembles very much the one of the Large-Scale testing programme. Apart from the choice of the date and time, they also need to fill in a personal questionnaire in which -for example- they must declare whether they have had COVID-19 in the past or if they have any history of severe allergies to vaccinations or bleeding disorders. This questionnaire is then examined by the vaccinator in the centre to check whether the conditions for vaccination are met.

Our visit starts right in front of the vaccination centre equipped over a short period of time in a brand-new building in Belval. It has not been previously occupied and will be used by the University of Luxembourg as soon as the pandemic is over. Lined up at the main door, the security agents check the visitors’ appointment confirmation email. People are then admitted inside and go through the registration desk; the identity card or passport and the social security card is needed. “We understand that for some people coming and getting a vaccine can be quite a challenging experience, mostly for those who barely left their homes for the past year. For this reason, some are accompanied by a support person and that’s often helpful mainly during the registration process,” says Dr Silvana Masi, MD, médecin responsable of the vaccination centre in Esch/Belval.

Vaccination centre Esch/Belval

 

The visitor is then directed to a waiting room on the upper floors of the building that can be accessed via stairs or an elevator. There, the person is directed to the waiting room with a ticket indicating their number and number of the lane. "Each position working here has a specific function, from the security guard to the nurse," says Dr Masi, “yet, every day we review our processes and adapt to changing situations to be as efficient as possible.”

On most days the process is quite smooth, resembling a Swiss clock where all the intricate pieces work hand in hand. “We understand that occasionally the waiting times may be a little longer than usual (note: within half an hour range), however, we do the best we can. Sometimes visitors are late, this might delay the whole planning for the rest of the day. All in all, most visitors leave very happy.”

As soon as the visitor is called by the vaccinator, he/she enters a small vaccination area separated by cardboard prefab walls and white curtains. Based on the personal questionnaire filled prior to coming to the centre, the vaccinator asks different questions about existing medical conditions or allergic reactions based on prior vaccinations. This is also a great opportunity for the visitor to ask any questions running through his/her mind. Dr Silvana Masi adds: “We observed that the older generations rarely ask questions, they’re usually quite happy that they will be able to live without fear of contracting COVID-19. It is different for some younger visitors who in contrary ask a lot of questions. But this is a good thing of course and our vaccinators are always happy to assist and reassure the visitor, point out the scientific facts and make sure people understand that the advantages the vaccines bring hugely outweigh any potential risks.”

At the beginning of the campaign, the vaccinators worked in tandem: While one asked the questions and walked the visitor through the process, the second one prepared and administered the vaccine. With time the vaccination team noticed that the process could be more efficient with only one vaccinator doing the job from A to Z, and thus more people can get vaccinated every day. As a matter of fact, the vaccinators are moving very quickly. At its full capacity, over 1,500 vaccines can be given each day, for 12 hours and six days a week. “We’re as ready as we can be to speed up the pace, we just need to receive the vaccines and that is, in my opinion, currently the bottleneck in the vaccination strategy,” says Dr Silvana Masi.

Inside the vaccination Centre

 

Can people opt for a vaccine of their choice while at the centre? Silvana responds: “In Luxembourg as in many other European countries, we have the choice to be vaccinated or not. All the vaccines have been validated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and we don’t make any differences between them. Of course, some people try to talk us into giving them the vaccines of their choice – but this is simply not possible for logistic reasons. It would considerably reduce the efficiency of the vaccination if we had to assign personal choices of vaccines to individual people. We need to vaccinate as quickly as possible for the pandemic to stop as soon as possible.”

After the vaccine is administered, visitors are given advice on what to do in case (mild) side effects occur at home and are asked to sit down and wait for about 15 minutes during which they are monitored by first aid staff. It is very important to stay in the waiting room as rare allergic reactions usually occur shortly after injection and the visitor could therefore be treated immediately. There is no limit for the resting time if someone does not feel well and medical support is always readily available. As soon as they feel comfortable leaving, the vaccinated people can head home by car or wait in a dedicated area for the bus.

Since its opening in January, the centre’s 158 medical workers and many other helpers and volunteers got to know the building and its spaces almost by heart. From Monday till Saturday 7:00 – 19:00 they relentlessly walk dozens of kilometers each day to watch over the vaccine deliveries and the stocks and to make the vaccination process as efficient as possible for every visitor. “It has been a challenging year to say the least: prior to leading the vaccination centre in Esch/Belval, I was responsible for the contact tracing for COVID-19 in Luxembourg-City. As you can imagine, these assignments taught me things for the lifetime,” says Dr Masi.

So far, Luxembourg has administered over 240 000 vaccine doses so far, including over 66 000 people who have got both shots. For a country with a population of 634 000 residents, we’re currently at almost 13% of COVID-19 fully vaccinated residents (status: 11 May 2021). You can have a look at the most up-to-date figures on the government's website

“Getting as many people vaccinated as possible is our priority, COVID-19 is still a serious threat. The quicker people register, the quicker vaccines can be administered and the quicker the whole country can receive their shots,” says Dr Masi.

 

 

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