Video and Transcript of Path Forward Ask Me Anything – Mass Vaccination Sites
Hello, everyone. My name is Torsten Pilz, and I'm the chief supply chain officer for Honeywell. Some weeks ago, we started our first mass vaccination sites here in Charlotte. Honeywell is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. And it started with an event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, where we tested our technology, the partnerships, and it was then followed by multiple large-scale events at the Panther Stadium – the Bank of America stadium. During these events, we vaccinated tens of thousands of people, and it has become an institution here in Charlotte, even today, even now, even as I speak a mass vaccination event is again going on in Charlotte at the Bank of America Stadium here in Charlotte. And over the last couple of weeks, almost every day, thousands and thousands of people have received a vaccination.
This was possible by partnering with the state of North Carolina, the city of Charlotte, but also with our partners, the Carolina Panthers, all type of sports and entertainment and Atrium Health. This private-public partnership made it possible that so many people received a shot in the arm in such a short period of time. And I think I'm now ready and waiting for your questions.
Question: Hi, I'm Tom from MetLife. As supply begins to slowly enter the market, it seems like mass vaccination clinics are still a primary source for people to be vaccinated. When can we expect retail pharmacies and local doctor facilities to have more access for our associates?
I mean, I think this is ongoing. I think there are states where local pharmacies distribute vaccinations. I even got from my general practitioner an email saying, "Vaccination is available, let me know if you want a shot." So, I think we are in the middle of that. I think what we see right now is that mass vaccinations are still the primary channel through which a large amount of people can have access to the vaccine. But I think the rest of the channels are in operation as well already, as we speak.
Question: How can a business become a mass vaccination site?
First and foremost, you have to have partnerships. I don't think a business alone can do this. A business always has employees, has maybe even a venue or the desire to vaccinate a lot of people, but you always need the partnership with the state, the health department, maybe the city. If, you have a large mass vaccination site, you need the police department, fire department. Because, you have to probably close roads. You have to direct the traffic. There's a lens, a lot of things that need to be considered. And then, you need a healthcare service provider. The way vaccines are distributed is, the federal government allocates vaccine doses to the states. And the states then distribute them through a certain set of healthcare service providers. So, you always need a partner in order to do this. You can't just purchase vaccine and administer it. That's at this point, not possible.
Question: How can employers partner with public sector to administer vaccines?
Yeah. The partnership is usually, the public sector has a desire to administer as many vaccines as possible. But it's a public organization, so they are usually not really made to do this at scale. And here is how large industrial companies, like our industrial company, Honeywell came into play. We run large scale industrial operations, industrial processes, and we are used to scaling these things up, running the very complex operations efficiently. And so, we provide industrial engineering or a lean manufacturing view on this. And if you partner both, that's a recipe for success. I don't think any one single entity has the skillset. For us, it was very beneficial to have the state, the venue provider, the Carolina Panthers type of sports and Atrium, and Honeywell as partners. And everybody put their best foot forward. And the result was that we were able to administer a lot of vaccines in a very short period of time.
Question: What were your biggest challenges? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is that, you have to do this at scale. So, it's relatively easy to administer a vaccine, but if you do this at scale, you really have to think through the process itself. You have to understand what you want to accomplish. And you have to think through this from a patient perspective. So, what's the experience of a patient? How quickly can you bring somebody in, and can you bring somebody out? I don't think there was one single main obstacle. I think it all has to be orchestrated. I think to orchestrate these events from patient flow, public safety, involvement of local authorities, to the administration of the vaccine. That's the trick of it, you have to orchestrate all of it and synchronize all of them. The synchronization is probably the biggest issue.
Question: What are best practices for mass vaccination sites?
I think there are a couple of best practices for mass vaccine sites. First, you have to agree on a, patients first mentality. When, you create a public private partnership with a clear and really unifying message then, you have experts lead. So, you can politicize this. So, you have to build the right team and engage informatics, nursing, emergency management, logistics experts in the planning and in the orchestration of this event. Then, you have to leverage proper technology to enable really a smooth operation. The less manual the operation is managed, the better it is. So, use software, hardware technology to really try to streamline the patients flow. You can't expect that everything works from the first second. So, you have to really try to create a, never stop improving mentality. What we did was, we tried it at small scale first, for half a day, worked out the kinks and then open it up to the broader public.
So, you really have to test and refine. And then I would say, really, you have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, medical personnel, pharmaceutical staff, support staff, people who direct traffic, you have hundreds and hundreds of people. So, you have to find a way to communicate, communicate, and communicate. And at the end of the day, you also have to be able to leave your egos outside of the venue. You have a lot of high power entities involved in this, and you have to agree that the mission is bigger than your ego. And that, makes things way smoother.
Question: Will companies be able to administer vaccines to their communities?
I don't see that a company itself, unless it's a medical service provider as a company. We always partner with a healthcare service provider. We have right now, in North America, about 30 sites where our own employees are receiving vaccines. And we always partner with a healthcare service provider. This is just how the channel and how the distribution of vaccine works. In some instances, we have our own doctors who are medically trained to administer, and nurses, a vaccine. But in most cases, it's a third party that provides those services.
Question: Will employers be able to purchase vaccines in bulk?
At least in North America, that's at this point, as far as I know, not possible that employers are able to purchase vaccines in bulk. It's a federal program. It's distributed through the states. In some countries, it's possible. One of the countries, Brazil allows you as an employer to purchase and administer the vaccine. You have to, however, also donate a certain portion of this vaccine to the federal government of Brazil. So, it's not for free. But in some countries, especially in South America, I think this is one of the concepts going forward.
Question: How much of a role does technology play in the operation?
I think, as you scale this to a larger scale, and I'm talking about 1,000 plus people per hour, vaccinated. Technology plays a huge role. First, is all these vaccinations events. One of the things you really have to keep in mind is that, it only works if it's by appointment only. You cannot have people that just walk up without an appointment. You cannot control the patient flow then. So, it needs to be by appointment only. So, that is a technology challenge. People need to sign up, then you have to have a way to plan for this. You have a certain no-show rate. So, technology and scheduling the vaccination is important. And then, the next step is to apply technology in order to make the patient flow very smooth. I'll give an example, if a patient shows up, some of the information of the patient needs to be keyed into a database. Everybody is required to report the level of vaccinations to a federal agency.
And you can do this by keying it in. We use barcodes or QR codes and scanners, and created an app that people just used as they progressed from check-in to registration, to vaccination and observation as the last point. And that helped tremendously. From about five to 10 minutes, to less than 30 seconds as patient got registered. So, it was a tremendous help. And then, you also have sometimes a situation where the traffic flow is challenging. So, we use a lot of technology to monitor traffic, to monitor our patient flows throughout the venue, and make sure that we allocate capacity and resources at the point where a potential bottleneck could be created. I think that's important.
The next thing is that, you always have to think about a certain defect route. So, you cannot expect that everything goes smoothly. So, you can always have a situation where a patient shows up and says, "I want to be vaccinated, but I just can't find my registration." Or, you can't be found in the system, but it's plausible that the patient is registered. So, you always don't want to have this patient then block the lane, basically, and block the flow. You have to take this patient out and deal with this on an exception basis, and have the rest of the patients flow through the system very smoothly.
Question: How have you approached education about vaccines, and the safety and efficacy for patients/prospective patients?
I think that's an important point, especially when it comes to promoting vaccinations of your own employees. We have a set of doctors on staff. And from day one, we ran a lot of information campaigns. First, about the virus itself, how to stay safe, what are the rules, but over time, it became a very well-established resource to also inform people about how the vaccines work, what to expect, what you should do, what you should not do, and that you need to be hydrated when you get vaccinated. And that, you might feel a little pain in the arm on the second day. So, I think to establish a trusted communication is key.
Question: What is the protocol for checking for any immediate adverse reactions at mass vaccination sites?
So, you're required, after somebody receives a vaccine, to observe this individual. So, the protocol is as follows, even before people received the vaccine, there is a certain protocol where you ask questions. And the questions are primarily related to, did you ever have an allergic reaction when you received the vaccine? Did you ever have anything that is out of the ordinary when, for instance, receiving a flu shot? Or, do you have any health conditions that are of concern? And if these questions are answered negatively, somebody gets in our case, a green sticker, or has a green sign on his phone. If, some of these indications indicate that there might be a risk, it's a red sticker or a red sign on the phone.
And then, there is an observation area behind the actual vaccination area. During this observation period, people with a green sticker, they are observed for 15 to 20 minutes. And people with a red sticker, are observed for 30 minutes. We have emergency response personnel on staff and emergency doctors who observe those patients. And if some of these patients show sign of concern, they are treated accordingly. And it can happen, it's in very rare cases that somebody has to be transferred to the hospital. In almost all cases, it's just anxiety. We dealt, in the first place with an older population. And there is a lot of emotional stress associated with being vaccinated. It's actually a positive experience, but there's a lot of emotional stress associated with this. And some people then, just develop a certain anxiety and they need a little bit of handholding, and people who help them and explain what's going on. Usually, it's nothing really serious.
Question: We're having a hard time securing enough vaccinators to administer the shots. Did you have this challenge? Any advice?
We did not have this challenge. And why did we not have this challenge? If, you partner with health care service providers, the way we've structured these programs is, we call it refill your tank. Many people are stressed out about the last year. Everything they had to deal with, they had to treat, they had to deal with people who actually had COVID. And then, they saw what was happening and how bad it could be. And to finally give people hope to provide something that helps patients, is a very positive sign for many. So, it became actually, some sort of a reward. People were very eager to sign up to administer this vaccination. That's one piece.
The other piece is, when you organize an event like that, or a venue or a site, you also not only have to take care of your patients. You also have to take care of your staff and your personnel, including the vaccinators. So, you have to make sure, they are being treated very well, food is provided, they have their breaks. It's easy for them to access this. It can't be a very complicated exercise. It needs to be a positive experience for both, patients but also those who help organizing and administering vaccines.
Question: Why is Honeywell working so hard to get its employees vaccinated? Can you help explain why this is important?
Yes, I absolutely can explain why this is important. It became for us, very apparent early on, that only a medical solution is the solution for this problem. So, we have been involved in this topic and this issue, basically from day one. We were already, for instance, a face mask manufacturer and be ramped up manufacturing of face masks super quickly. I mean, usually to build a factory for face masks, takes almost nine months to a year. We did this twice, just in five weeks, to stand up new manufacturing facilities for face masks. So, we were very heavily involved in this. At the same time, we also recognize that we actually have some ability, others don't.
We have technology, we have logistics professionals. We have a large scale industrial process mindset. And at some point, for us it's not a business or anything. We don't get any dollar for this. For us, it is that we know, we as a society will benefit from this in the long run. This is not a short-term thing. This is a long-term thing. For us, it's a way to give back to the community, in a way where we feel we have some competencies that we can throw in. It's for us, a way to show that our responsibility is larger than just running a great business. It has a social impact as well.
In terms of our own employees, we're a technology company. And a technology company is a 100% dependent on the intelligence, the involvement of people, that people get together, come up with new ideas, get new things out there, try things, communicate. And we felt last year, it was a challenge. We all communicated over video, but we were actually eager to get back into some sort of a situation where we actually can communicate directly with each other again. And as you can see, I'm in my office. I'm in my office for many weeks now. And even next week, we were bringing on more and more people. And you shouldn't forget. We have a lot of manufacturing folks that, they don't have the luxury to work from home. They go in the factory and we need to make sure that we take care of our employees. And the best way to take care of our employees, is just to provide a level of protection for them. And vaccination is the most efficient protection. So, we want to take care of our people because they put their own health out there every day, when they go into our factories.
Question: As you plan for the future, what do you expect the pandemic to look like and what role does your company expect to play in vaccinations going forward?
It's very apparent that more and more countries, they get the organization in order and they start to learn how to really vaccinate at a large scale. We got involved heavily into helping with these vaccinations, when we saw that other countries, Israel for example, they made huge progress. And the way they made progress is, they actually did invent, or they started these max vaccination sites, the arenas, stadiums, and so forth. And we felt we needed to help here, because we had a little slow start at the beginning. We needed to catch up and there were more vaccines available sometimes in certain states, that the ability to get shot in arms.
So, we wanted to solve this problem of the last mile. And I'm glad that we were able to help with this. We created a playbook. We shared our... And we are still sharing, like I'm doing today, everything we learned with as many people as possible. So, we will stay involved. But I do think that it's not becoming our main reason for being. We will stay involved. We support this every day, like I said. We just had today, in one of our sites in Arizona, probably a 1,000 people that got vaccinated there. And we will continue to push it but I do think that the general broader public also has stepped up their game significantly. And I'm super happy about that.
Question: Are there lessons you've learned in the United States that will help Honeywell protect its employees in other parts of the world?
Absolutely. I mean, we have learned how to run vaccination sites, of course. But also, how to prepare our own employees, what kind of communication. We took inventory of, who's eligible? Who's not? We make sure that it's not only our employees, but also their family and also family members can take part in this. So, we created real operating system around this, so that we have always a clear visibility, transparency, where our people are eligible to be vaccinated, who is prepared to do this? So, you always want to get ahead of this. You want to be prepared. Once, you find out today, you're eligible to be vaccinated, and then it takes you two, three weeks to organize around this. This is not a good idea.
So, we learned this, we created our own playbook and which we are sharing this playbook with everybody who wants it. And as more and more countries make improvements and progress towards vaccinations, we'll roll this out across the globe. We're doing the same thing in Asia. And in Malaysia for instance, we have huge operations in Malaysia. We partner with government there and do the same thing. India is another example. So, I think this is not only a US topic, it becomes a more and more global topic.
Question: Do you have any tips for companies that are having trouble navigating the state-specific processes for obtaining vaccine doses?
I think, it's always a good idea to really stay close to the state authorities, health departments. And to have a clear communication channel is very helpful. You don't want to read a newspaper that all of a sudden, you're eligible. You want to get ahead of this. The states usually, are very interested in this because for them, it's another resource they can tap into.
And what you want to make sure is that, a state is able to administer the amount of vaccines they are allocated. So, if somebody gets 100,000 vaccines a week, if you help a state to really administer close to 100,000 vaccines, that's success also for the state.
So, stay close, plan ahead and have a clear concept. There are also federal resources and a lot of websites who consolidate all these different information. I think there's a lot of resources out there available.
Question: Now that the supplies are robust, should the federal government start giving vaccines to large employers?
Maybe. It's a possibility, but it needs to have some consequences because you can't just give somebody a vaccine. You also need to make sure that these vaccines are administered professionally. So, you have to make sure that this employer probably partners with some service provider. You want to make sure that the vaccine is under control. What you don't want is somebody that is sucked up by some sort of a gray market or something. So, there's a lot of benefit that this is federally controlled at this point. I really do believe that once you give this to larger employers, these employers, they need to sign up for the same process rigor and documentation rigor.
Question: Have mass vaccination sites helped reach the vulnerable/most at risk populations? Those hardest to reach, as well as those most hesitant to receive the vaccine?
I'm 100% sure it has helped. And here's why I think this. If you look at these mass vaccination centers, they're actually built to be accessed by public transportation, for instance, and that's what you want. You want sites that people, even if you don't have a car, but at least there's a way for them to get there easily and quickly. And the other topic is that if you create these mass vaccination events, there is a certain buzz and a certain communication, even in the community. The TV stations have reporters out there.
There is a certain positive energy. And I have to tell you, I've talked to a lot of people. And there's a lot of people who say, "You know what, if tens of thousands of people are doing this, I can't be wrong. I'm not just a single person who feels like they want to do it." It's so assuring for people that they see that, basically masses travel into these sites and they are just one of them and they take advantage of it. And then, it creates this positive community spirit that finally, the dark times seem to be over and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And at the beginning, we had a lot of older people, they had tears in their eyes because we provided hope to them. And this is very rewarding. Well, it was to me but also to our entire team who helped them. I think that was our last question. So, thank you for your questions. They were all great questions. Thank you.