To help meet the Government’s vaccine pledges, various temporary vaccination centres have been set up across the UK. Buildings forced to close to their usual clientele have been repurposed in order to provide locations for the administration of vaccinations for local communities. These include everything from leisure centres to conference centres, the aim being to utilise premises that can be safely adapted and that have the space to house the vaccination process for hundreds or even thousands of people a day.
To set up a centre like this requires planning and collaboration between an array of companies, services and professionals. It is also important to ensure that visitors know what process to follow, so communication is crucial prior to their visit and while they are on site in order to optimise safety. Much more than this, careful consideration needs to be given to the management and disposal of waste generated during the vaccination process. The entire waste journey must be monitored from point of waste generation to immediate disposal, storage, collection and final treatment.
This means that the different waste streams generated must be segregated and managed accordingly. For instance, needles used to administer the vaccine require disposal into a dedicated sharps container. Wrappers from the syringes and PPE waste are then classed as clinical waste or highly infectious clinical waste depending on the site, so they must be discarded into yellow or orange waste bags and containers as appropriate.
From here, the storage of full waste bags and containers must be kept safe so as to reduce any risks of injury or contamination of people or the environment. Regular collection by suitable persons must be arranged, with a view for each waste stream to be securely transported to the correct treatment or waste disposal centre.
Case study – one of the first drive-through vaccination centres in the UK
The Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) are controlling the set-up and management of vaccination centres in England. Towards the end of 2020, the Tameside & Glossop CCG utilised the opportunity to repurpose Hyde Leisure Centre in Greater Manchester, which was already closed to the public due to lockdown rules and restrictions. Trailblazing a new and innovative operating procedure, it became one of the first drive-through vaccination centres in the UK. The team in charge of this particular site contacted Initial Medical – waste segregation and disposal expert – to organise safe and effective waste management.
As a drive-through, this was a unique environment in that people would not be leaving their vehicles during the entire process. The benefits of this are clear with regards to reduced risk of cross contamination. It is also faster and offers greater comfort and ease for the more vulnerable people invited during the first wave of vaccinations.
At this location, waste items are placed into the appropriate waste bags and sharps containers at point of generation. Once full, these are moved to external wheelie bins. Initial Medical coordinates collection days with the CCG during weekly catch-ups, arranging for waste technicians to collect all waste at regular and convenient intervals to prevent it building up onsite. This provides a highly flexible service that can be tailored each week to specific vaccination sessions at the location. The NHS has a duty of care to ensure all waste created is safely and efficiently removed – Initial Medical has the knowledge, skills, team and facilities to make this happen.
Due to the location and design of this site – as is relevant with various other municipal buildings temporarily utilised as vaccination centres – a temporary fence was constructed to provide a more secure area for the entire process. The waste wheelie bins are locked to optimise security when the site is closed, such as overnight, and there is also a small security team onsite 24-7.
During the first few weeks, the site has been operating smoothly, vaccinating up to 600 people per day, currently around 2-3 days each week.
Challenges and solutions
The main challenge of safe and efficient waste management for this type of vaccination site is logistics. A vast amount of waste can be generated in a single day, so space for secure storage is vital, though sometimes difficult. Lockable, external wheelie bins are one option, but some sites use existing cupboards and rooms to store full waste bags and sharps containers until collection.
In addition, finding a suitable collection service is getting difficult. A lot of Coronavirus waste requires incineration. This is becoming more problematic given that most waste treatment and disposal centres are already at capacity due to the significantly increased amount of waste that has been created over the past several months. Initial Medical has secured additional capacity at various waste disposal and treatment locations to help meet the demands being faced.
It is also important to work with a service provider who can deliver the waste management training, where required, for staff and who can be flexible with collections. Vaccination delivery varies greatly between sites, so being able to organise bespoke waste collections is hugely beneficial.
At the end of the day, collaboration is key. As more temporary vaccination locations are set-up across the UK, it takes different teams and organisations working together to ensure safe and efficient waste management.