Not Your Typical Event: How Hamilton Supported Indiana’s Vaccine Efforts
At Hamilton, one of our mottos is “no surprises.” But no one could have predicted the major impact COVID-19 would have on the world, and on our home state of Indiana. The pandemic threw so many surprises at us, but when we were asked to help with Indiana’s vaccine efforts, we partnered with the state and worked 24/7 to ensure a smooth vaccine rollout.
The Pandemic Problem
During the early months of 2021, vaccine supply in Indiana was ramping up. Demand was high, and supply was finally rising to meet it. Indiana set a goal of vaccinating at least 200,000 residents in just 60 days.
With this challenge in mind, the state needed a partner to help plan, design, and implement multiple outdoor mass vaccination centers — that’s where we came in. “Once IDOH contacted us and decided to move forward, we put together a professional ‘all-hands-on-deck’ team and jumped on the project,” said Jason Weddle, Hamilton CEO. “This magnitude of a project may look daunting, but it’s what we do.” Several large-scale projects followed, each with its own set of unique complexities.
The Hamilton Solution
During this critical time in the fight against COVID-19, we took our expertise in creating immersive experiences and focused heavily on the vaccine rollout.
In order to help the state reach its vaccine deployment goal, the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) reached out to us for planning assistance. The request: set up four mass vaccination sites (Indianapolis Motor Speedway, University of Notre Dame, Ivy Tech in Sellersburg, and FEMA vaccination site in Gary) and provide logistic support for 11 additional mobile sites across Indiana. Each of the mass vaccination sites distributed a few thousand vaccines per day, while the mobile sites, deployed to more isolated, rural areas of Indiana, handed out between 50-250.
For each of these sites, we managed the extensive rollout of the vaccination event – including the installation of tents, rentals, transportation, traffic cones, and the labor necessary to direct and control traffic. Working with IDOH, we were also tasked with ensuring that strict protocols related to vaccine storage and handling were maintained by ensuring consistent electrical connections for refrigeration along with backup power contingencies in the event of any failure.
The sense of urgency to get shots into arms as quickly as humanly possible drove short timeframes, last-minute schedule changes, and requests from the state. In setting up the expansive site on the campus of Notre Dame University, our team had only eight days to mobilize all required vendors, staff, and logistics. Speed, accuracy, flexibility, and efficiency (commonplace in our normal course of business) were called on with heightened importance.
Implementing the vaccine rollout was an unprecedented task in our 74-year history of event marketing and planning.
The first significant challenge was adhering to the strict organizational protocols set by both federal and state governments. In April 2020, IDOH contacted us to mobilize yet another major FEMA site located in Gary, IN. The specific site was being requested by the White House with a 48 hour deadline to solidify details. In addition, this site would operate for eight weeks -- the longest of all deployments. We went into action and on Monday morning, April 29th, during the White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, it was announced that the Gary site would open the following week to serve not only Northwest Indiana but the entire region including Illinois and Michigan. Although already working with IDOH and the Indiana National Guard, the Gary deployment allowed our team to partner with FEMA, the National Guard Command in Washington, as well as top officials within the Department of Defense.
Over the course of a few months, we had to adapt and react to difficulties on the spot. This ranged from trimming city trees to buying heavy outdoor weights when sites wouldn’t allow stakes in the ground.
A Rewarding Result
Through all of these difficulties, our employees recognized the importance and gravity of their work. The vaccine rollout was truly a race against time.
In the end, our partnership with the IDOH, the Department of Defense, both federal and state offices of FEMA, and the National Guard, the sites were successful in administering over 200,000 vaccines in 60 days. Our executives and staff agree that while this was one of the most unusual and difficult event rollouts in company history, it was also among the most rewarding.
“Hamilton has stepped up several times this year in critical ways to help the Indiana Department of Health bring multiple thousands of vaccines and other services to the people of Indiana,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD. “Their valuable expertise works seamlessly with our staff in planning and executing these important operations.”
Addressing the challenge of COVID-19 and its variants remains formidable for our country and vaccination is the most reliable way to ensure that this war on the pandemic is won. In Indiana, our elected officials and appointed leaders within IDOH continue their efforts to ensure that everything is being done to make testing and vaccinations readily available to all residents. As IDOH takes on that challenge, they continue to rely on the entire Hamilton team for our continued partnership ensuring that all Hoosiers, regardless of where they might live, are provided the access to those services that keep them safe and well.
“We’ve provided support for these outdoor operations during 2021 in the snow, freezing cold, and rain, but we count it a major privilege to play a role to continue helping end this pandemic,” said Jason Weddle, Hamilton CEO. “We’re committed to doing whatever it takes, especially for serving life-saving operations like this.”
Beginning in mid-September, in our second engagement with IDOH at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) facilities, we provided planning, design, infrastructure, and temporary facilities. “In addition to the extensive set-up, we have staff at IMS each day to support medical professionals, National Guard members and Indiana Department of Health staff in administering vaccines and tests,” Weddle said. Hamilton will continue supporting IDOH activities providing free COVID-19 vaccines, tests and flu shots through December 2021.