Document Actions

You are here: Home Online Magazine experience & get … Initial Experiences at the …

Initial Experiences at the Vaccination Center

Thorsten Hammer explains what’s been going well so far, and talks about his hopes that his team will soon be able to treat even more people each day

Freiburg, Jan 22, 2021

No one expected that anything like this would ever be necessary, yet now, centralized vaccination centers are being set up across Germany to fight the corona pandemic. At the Freiburg center, associate professor Dr. Thorsten Hammer, disaster control officer at the Freiburg University Medical Center, and Frank Uekermann, head of the city’s Garten- und Tiefbauamt, are in charge. The University of Freiburg is also actively involved. Claudia Füßler spoke with Thorsten Hammer about how the first few weeks have gone, and upcoming developments.

At present about 900 people a day are getting vaccinated against coronavirus in Freiburg. Photo: Jürgen Gocke 

Mr Hammer, you’re the medical head of operative emergency care at the Freiburg University Medical Center and planned and realized the Freiburg central vaccination center together with Frank Uekermann. What was involved?

Thorsten Hammer: We saw early on that this was an extreme challenge that we were planning to take on. Neither of us has ever done anything like it, but we have good networks, plenty of contacts and above all were keen to do it. So we each went to our bosses and got the green light. We’d had a little experience already with the Covid testing center. We took an A4 page and outlined [the center] on it. Then we thought about everything we need: admission controls, medical check, registration, information and explanation, then the vaccination process itself and subsequent observation. And we had to plan everything so that it was firstly designed for a large number of people, and secondly we had to observe the coronavirus safety rules: it had to be possible to ensure the protective measures and distancing everywhere at all times.

Were there aspects that caused you a particular headache?

Oh yes, the problem of digital transfer of data, for example. It was all new to the Ministry of Health too, there weren’t any vaccination centers before. We didn’t know at first whether we had to put together our own solution. Then there were a lot of small questions to clarify: how do we organize the rota? Where do we get materials from? Who deals with the supplies? Our location here is an enormous advantage, because the University Medical Center, university and the city not only have tremendous expertise but also work hand in hand when necessary. And we do so rapidly and completely without bureaucracy. That led to the Freiburg central vaccination center now being a blueprint for other centralized vaccination centers and the local vaccination centers that are being created everywhere.

Thorsten Hammer helped to set up the Freiburg vaccination center – he and his team encounter a lot of gratitude. Photo Jürgen Gocke

Why is it going so well in Freiburg in particular?

Because we were humble and cleverer than the others: we don’t think we’re the best at everything, we ask a lot of other people who also have ideas, because they know about their field. How can I build a warehouse? We asked the logistics experts at the university. What needs to be packed up ready for the vaccination booth? The senior clinician at the University Medical Center gave us tips on this. How do we set up a vaccination bench where the vaccine is prepared for inoculation? Here we were able to draw on the experience of our pharmacy director. One good idea was our simulation test. Using 60 actors we simulated how people might pass through the vaccination center. For instance, we found that registration could become a bottleneck – so we increased the number of booths here again. We preferred things like this to become obvious in a test run than to open the doors and then find out where it goes wrong.

The central vaccination center has been running for some weeks now – are you satisfied?

Absolutely. We vaccinate about 900 people a day, and we will do 2,000 a day once we receive sufficient vaccine. That’s the big sticking point at the moment, we’d love to vaccinate more already. But we are ready for full capacity. All our procedures and the route markings are optimized, so no one has to wait for long here. The Freiburg trade fair center, the University Medical Center, the city and the university – you just have to say they’ve all done a really super job. Many employees from the laboratories have signed up voluntarily to support us here. We’re a colorful, mixed bunch of various professions and all ages, without any airs and graces. We have people from other hospitals here, as well as independent or even retired colleagues – I like the atmosphere: warm, cheerful, everyone joins in.

Can you take anything with you from your work in the vaccination center to the emergency department at Freiburg University Medical Center?

Some forms of organization and also improvisation can certainly be transferred, I’ll be looking at that more closely with my colleagues.

How do you expect things to proceed in the central vaccination center in the coming months?

The number of people we vaccinate each day will grow steadily until we are able to work at full capacity. At the same time, local vaccination centers are being set up everywhere. That will take some of the load off us, as people won’t have to come from so far afield. At present some are coming from the High Rhine and Lake Constance regions. And our mobile vaccination teams won’t have to travel so far then either. The oldest will benefit most from having a shorter journey. We’re currently encountering a lot of gratitude. Everyone who is able to get vaccinated here is glad of the opportunity – we hear this every day.