The University of California gives back to the community

About 10% of the population in San Diego have now received the vaccine. A third of these — 100,000 people– were served by a single facility operated by the University of California at San Diego. What’s the secret to their success? Answer: logistics.

In pre-COVID days, a big theme park like Disneyland would welcome 50,000 visitors every day. The only way they could pull this off was by devoting tremendous planning and resources into the operational details of how and where the flow of people would go, anticipating where the bottlenecks would arise and mitigating them with advance planning. A constant stream of cars into Disneyland were directed by a small army of workers who would direct each car at each turn. The end result of this planning was that each car would seamlessly end up at its own particular pre-designated parking spot and each lot would fill up at the same pace as the nonstop inflow of new visitors. Similar attention to details of how you entered the park and got onto each ride made the whole thing work.

The UCSD vaccination drive-in superstation is located in the parking lot of the downtown ball park. Several dozen people direct incoming traffic to one of a dozen possible stations where an attendant checks i.d.’s, verifies that you’re there for a scheduled appointment, and asks a few medical questions. From there cars are directed into one of a number of different lines of a dozen cars each. Several specialists and a doctor again check with each individual in the line, at the end of which the doctor walks down the line administering a shot to each person. There is then a 15-minute waiting period to check for any immediate reactions, after which you’re back on the road.

UCSD’s vaccination superstation at Petco Park. Source: UCSD.

It takes a huge number of people, many of them volunteers, for this to work. Here’s how one volunteer explained how he felt about being part of an operation on this scale:

“I love it,” said Bernard Surovsky of Carmel Valley, who volunteered at the Petco Park site. “It just warms me up from inside when I hear that”.

Surovsky has seen the pandemic’s toll up close. His brother survived a bad bout of COVID-19 last spring and is now wheelchair-bound and struggles with paralysis and cognitive issues.

UCSD plans to open a second superstation next week. This one will be a walk-in clinic located on the UCSD campus, which could process an additional 5,000 people each day.

11 thoughts on “The University of California gives back to the community

  1. 2slugbaits


    Compare that emphasis on logistics with the org chart for Operation Warp Speed (scroll down):

    If you squint real hard and get real close to the screen you might be able to see the very tiny ORSA and logistics cell. OWS pretty much focused on letting contracts.
    Almost all of the non-medical personnel came for weapon system acquisition backgrounds with no logistics expertise. Their idea of logistics was to let a contract with FedEx or UPS and call it a day.

  2. Macroduck

    The line between disorder and order lies in Logistics.
    — Sonny Liston?, Sonny Bono? Sonny somebody…

    1. Macroduck

      Just escorted a family member through the only Covid vaccine station in Rutherford County, Tennessee. It seems identical in structure to the system described here, though much smaller. One line for initial vaccinations, one for second vaccinations, for the whole county. Don’t know who came up with this approach, or if it is new (seems unlikely), but it runs like clockwork.

      The problem in Tennessee is scarcity of vaccines. And scarcity of information. (And the legislature. And the governor.) The staff at the sight, most of whom are learning on the job, were excellent. Traffic control, handled by the police, was pretty poorly designed and execution was pretty bad. That’s Tennessee.

      By the way, Professor Hamilton, it’s good to see you back.

  3. baffling

    this is great to see. glad that we are setting examples of how large scale vaccine programs can exist. we are having similar successes in houston. we simply need more vaccine. the process is running smoothly here, and plenty of demand. bodes well for the second half of the year.

  4. ltr

    January 30, 2021

    A California University Tries to Shield an Entire City From Coronavirus
    The University of California, Davis, is providing free testing, masks and quarantine housing to tens of thousands of people who live nearby.
    By Shawn Hubler

    DAVIS, Calif. — The coronavirus test center on A Street was bustling on a recent morning. Michael Duey was in line, as usual, with his teenage son. Margery Hayes waited for her wife in the parking lot. Dr. Elizabeth Pham hustled her children in for a quick pit stop.

    Inside, each received a five-minute screening for the virus, administered and paid for by the University of California, Davis. Yet none of them is associated with the school.

    All last fall, universities across the country were accused of enabling the pandemic’s spread by bringing back students who then endangered local residents, mingling with them in bars, stores and apartments. So U.C. Davis is trying something different.

    Rather than turning the campus into a protective bubble for students and staff, as some schools have attempted, it has quietly spent the past six months making its campus bubble bigger — big enough, in fact, to encompass the entire city.

    Public health experts say the initiative is the most ambitious program of its type in the country and could be a model for other universities. U.C. Davis, part of the 10-campus University of California system, has made free coronavirus tests — twice weekly, with overnight results — available to all 69,500 people in the city of Davis and hundreds of nonresidents who just work there.

    It has also trained dozens of graduate students to help with contact tracing; recruited hotel and apartment owners to provide free isolation and quarantine housing to anyone in town exposed to the virus; and hired some 275 undergraduate ambassadors to combat health disinformation and hand out free masks.

    The university has also recently expanded campus wastewater testing into Davis, and in coming weeks plans to administer vaccinations at its coronavirus screening centers and to bring screening to some public school sites.

    Funded by major philanthropic donations, state and federal grants and CARES Act money, the program, projected to cost up to $38 million, has caught more than 850 potential outbreaks in Davis since it got underway shortly before Thanksgiving, according to Brad H. Pollock, who chairs the university’s department of public health sciences and directs the project….

  5. pgl

    I used to live in LA and always loved visiting San Diego. Much creds to UCSD for pitching in to contain this virus.

  6. Barkley Rosser


    We know that you have not been personally responsible for the decisions made by those in charge at your university to engage in these highly worthwhile actions. However, we here all know that your long presence there has helped bring about the atmosphere that has led your leaders to do this. So, please accept the congratulations.

    Macroduck, welcome back.

  7. 2slugbaits

    JDH I’m assuming UCSD used some kind of (discrete event?) simulation software to lay out the logistics. If so, was it commercial-off-the-shelf or something that UCSD developed in-house?

  8. Alan Goldhammer

    I should have stayed in San Diego and would have been vaccinated by now! Our local supermarket pharmacy has a single vaccine station set up (Bethesda, MD) and that’s the only one within five miles of our house. “If” they have vaccine the can do as many as 45 patients a day. We are on two wait lists at other facilities and the state has just opened up one of two projected large sites such as the one Professor Hamilton notes. That site has no appointments for the upcoming week and you cannot be put on a wait list. We could have put Ticketmaster in charge of this and done a far better job.

    1. Moses Herzog

      “We could have put Ticketmaster in charge of this and done a far better job.”


      [ In my best Jerry Seinfeld whiny tones impression ] “….. And what’s up with these Ticketmaster guys?!?!?!?”

Comments are closed.