Dr. Paston (center) talks to Geoff Beausoleil, manager of the NNSA Production Office, and Michelle Reichert, CNS president and chief executive officer, at the vaccination clinic.
After more than two months of seeking approval, planning, and preparation, Pantex began administering COVID‑19 vaccines on site February 2 to high‑risk employees; based on the feedback received, it has been an overwhelming success.
Dr. Michael Paston, Pantex occupational medical director said, “it was beautiful.”
“We worked with Emergency Management to develop a plan, then we drilled the plan last week,” said Don Morris, senior manager of Pantex Occupational Health Services. “We walked through the process several times to make sure the flow would work well, and we made a couple of adjustments.”
This type of emergency response vaccine distribution was more than a year in the making. In 2019, Pantex began collaborating with Amarillo Public Health to develop a point of distribution plan for national medical emergencies.
“In response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, that POD plan was evaluated for use to deliver vaccines and a vaccine plan attachment was developed,” said Daniel Gleaves, manager of Pantex Emergency Management.
In order better prepare and to see a vaccine setup first hand, OHS and EM staff met with Amarillo Public Health in January 2021 and walked through the city’s vaccine setup.
“We walked through their process and got some good takeaways from them. They shared their lessons learned with us,&38221; Morris said. “We made some adjustments, because we couldn’t use some of their suggestions based on the line of work we do.”
The staff conducted several drills to ensure the process ran smoothly.
“It went like clockwork, and we didn’t have to change anything,” Morris said.
“Leading up to today, the team used this year’s flu shot distribution to test the plan, conducted a tabletop drill, and held two separate dry runs in addition to just-in-time training for the staff to prepare for the POD,” Gleaves said.
In November 2020, Pantex began the process to obtain approval from the Texas Department of State Health Services to be able to receive and administer the COVID‑19 vaccine.
“Dr. Paston was our primary contact. He gathered information the state needed and submitted the forms to be reviewed by the state before they would certify us to be a vaccine provider,” Gleaves said.
The effort to receive the state’s approval was supported by many CNS groups, including Supply Chain Management; Information Solutions and Services; Management Assessment; OHS; Environmental Services; Environment, Safety, and Health; and Safeguards and Security. The NNSA Production Office also supported CNS’s efforts to obtain approval.
The vaccine administration began February 2 in the John C. Drummond Center Auditorium with a steady crowd of Pantexans receiving their first doses all day.
“We administered 243 on the first day, and it went swimmingly,” Paston said.
“Our plan was to thaw out 240 doses the first day, then adjust for the following days,” Morris said. “We ended up having a few extra doses, so we got people down to the auditorium to receive those so we didn’t have to store any,” Morris said.
“The first day’s turnout was in line with what we expected,” Gleaves said. “We realized that we can deliver many more vaccines than previously estimated. We had estimated that approximately 30 individuals can be vaccinated every hour, but based on the first day’s performance, it is now estimated we can deliver approximately 60 vaccines per hour.”
The initial order will provide more than 1,100 doses of the vaccine. “Either later this week or early next week, we expect to finish administering all we have and will reorder,” Morris said. “We’ll try to submit the reorder form before we run out.”
Dr. Paston also mentioned that they’ll be reordering the booster doses next week as well, so those will be available for employees to start receiving on February 23.
When asked how quickly the entire plant site, beyond those who are considered high risk, will have access to the vaccine, Paston said he sees that happening soon.
“We are going to go pretty quick because our workers fall into first responders, critical workers, etc.,” he said. “We follow the state of Texas’ rules and when Texas opens up the next phases, we will follow those phases as well.”
On February 2, staff of Pantex’s Occupational Health Services began vaccinating high‑risk employees with the Pfizer COVID‑19 vaccine.
Tessa Pendergraft, Pantex wellness coordinator, received her vaccine last Tuesday and, because of an anxiety of needles, she was nervous going into it.
“They did a great job — I hardly felt it! This is a big deal to me because I get very anxious due to my illnesses as a young child,” she said. “I did have some soreness in my arm, which was to be expected, and a mild to moderate headache later in the day, which could’ve also been attributed to not having my coffee. Both of my symptoms improved or resolved in less than 24 hours.”
Tessa Pendergraft, Pantex wellness coordinator (right),
shares her anxiety of needles, as the medical provider
reassures her prior to receiving her COVID 19 vaccine.
Pendergraft also said the setup and flow worked well.
“I know that a lot of people were involved in the planning of this clinic, so I’d like to thank them for making this possible and for keeping us safe during the process.”
Pendergraft said that because of her background in science, she seeks out the research behind recommendations and additional information from credible sources to make the most educated decision she can.
“The evidence was strong enough for me to have confidence in receiving the vaccine,” she said. “I don’t fear for my safety nor that this will have any impact on my ability to bear children in the future. If you have questions or concerns, ask your primary care physician and they can help you make the best choice for you.”
Michelle Reichert, CNS president and chief executive officer, receives her COVID‑19 vaccination from a Pantex medical provider
Michelle Reichert, CNS president and CEO, and Geoff Beausoleil, manager of the NNSA Production Office, received their vaccines on February 3.
“It went so smoothly today,” Reichert said. “We got our shot, and it didn’t hurt. The team was very well prepared.”
“It was wonderful,” Beausoleil added. “OHS and EM did an excellent job with planning and coordinating the practice, so as soon as a patient would come through [the door], it worked like clockwork.”
Reichert said that the flow went extremely well and that was in large part because the team practiced.
“This team laid it out, they walked it down, and they drilled it together so when the vaccine arrived, we were ready,” she said.
Reichert said this was an opportunity to take some of the burden off the local community.
“We applied to the state to be a POD, and given the unique work that we do and as well as the size of our workforce, it takes some of the burden off of the local community to give the vaccines,” she said. “It was a real opportunity for us to work with the State of Texas and local health providers to get us set up.”
She said having the team and staff to make it happen, and after receiving the needed equipment, we were ready to go.
“Pantex employees are always important to our national security mission and being identified as essential workers made sense, nationally and for our support of our military,” Reichert said. “So, since the beginning of this pandemic, we have found ways to keep each other safe throughout, which we have successfully done, and kept the mission going.”
NNSA Production Office manager
Beausoleil said that we are proving the controls put into place over the last 11 or so months work.
“The actions that we’ve taken to adapt and deliver, we’ll continue to refine those and be more efficient with what we do,” he said. “We’ll be more protective of our workforce, more protective of our community, and be an example for our community and our workforce for how to do it right.”
Beausoleil expressed his gratitude for those involved in getting the approvals and making this process work.
“I have a huge amount of appreciation and admiration for Drs. Sayre and Paston and their staff in OHS for taking on this challenge and performing better than anybody expected and then some,” he said. “I can’t express my appreciation any more. They were fantastic. They were given the full support of Michelle Reichert, Bill Tindal, Todd Ailes, and Gene Sievers, and they had our full support and we are fully online with what they’re doing for us. It is just heartwarming.”
Dr. Michael Paston,
Pantex site occupational medical director
The COVID‑19 pandemic has brought the science and profession of public health to the forefront of communities nationwide. Pantex and Y‑12 are fortunate to have physician medical directors, Dr. Warren Sayre and Dr. Michael Paston, who have extensive public health backgrounds.
Preventive medicine, which includes public and occupational health, has often played second fiddle in the U.S. healthcare system, said Sayre, CNS corporate medical director and Y-12 site occupational medical director. Sayre earned a master’s degree in public health in addition to his medical education and certifications.
Paston, the Pantex site occupational medical director, served in the U.S. Air Force, which imparted vast public health experience. He also served at the Pentagon where he produced health policies, programs, activities, and resources for preventive and occupational medicine for the 9.7 million Department of Defense personnel.
“I believe I have a personal responsibility to make a positive impact on productivity at Pantex by guarding the health of every person who comes on the site,” Paston said. “That means providing accurate and actionable information about COVID-19.”
In addition to the medical directors, OHS also employs several physicians and healthcare professionals who have extensive public health training and experience.
R. Goodman, Veteran to Engineers program
Pantex incorporated and developed two new Mission Engineering programs for recent college graduate and military service members: Career Opportunities for New Engineers (Career ONE) and Veteran to Engineers (VTE) programs.
“Taken from a Y-12 success story, the programs were implemented to create and sustain a talented engineering workforce,” said R. Barrera-Chavez, Mission Engineering. “By bringing the program to Pantex, we hope to develop well-rounded engineers responsive to business needs.”
The Career ONE program takes recent college graduates places then in a rotation to expose them to various engineering specialties, work processes, and deliverables. As they gain insight into each assignment, the candidate and their managers can better determine which role is the best fit while considering business needs. The candidates are provided with mentoring and development opportunities throughout the year-long assignment.
“Once their one year rotation is complete, discussions will be held between the candidate, the program manager, and mission managers to determine the best fit for them,” said Barrera-Chavez.
M. Lee, A. Mitchell, B. Pattison and L. Robledo are Career ONE recent college graduates now employed as full-time Core Engineering Associates. They rotate approximately every 4 months through assigned various engineering projects at Pantex during the year-long program.
Pattison has rotated through Procurement Engineering and currently supports Engineering Development and said that even with COVID-19 complications, the program has been well-managed and guided.
“There are so many valuable aspects of this program,” Pattinson said. “Despite the short time frame, the work and experience has been more than I imagined it would be.”
Lee’s first stop was in Process Engineering followed by Nuclear Procurement Engineering group and has enjoyed the people and the learning experience.
“Career ONE is a great opportunity,” Lee said. “You get to experience a variety of engineering you may not have ever been exposed to and see what type of engineering you like. Not only does it benefit the company putting engineers where they work best, but you get placed into a position you enjoy working at every day.”
Mitchell has been able to take insight and knowledge from one group and use it in the other.
“I truly believe that the knowledge I am receiving and connections I am making will help me be a more valuable asset to Pantex,” she said.
Robledo is the newest to the group and still within her first rotation, but says she’s already learning a lot and the people in her department are nice and helpful.
The VTE program is an opportunity for military service members to complete an engineering degree while working part-time.
“The program primarily matches the military service, discipline and skills of non-commissioned officers to our future technical needs,” said Barrera-Chavez.
The candidates are exposed to various specialties and work processes while gaining opportunities for mentoring and development. Upon completion of the degree, full-time employment opportunities are available if there is satisfactory performance.
R. Goodman is the first VTE new hire and his first rotation is with Projects Engineering.
“By bringing the programs to Pantex, we hope to develop well rounded engineers responsive to business needs,” said Barrera-Chavez.
Career ONE, M. Lee
Career ONE, B. Pattison