COVID-19 vaccination event held for elderly relatives of UCLA Health general services staff


UCLA Health on Sunday, Feb. 21, organized a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for more than 180 elderly family members of health system employees in the division of general services, including cooks, cleaning staff and temperature screeners.

For staff in the Departments of Facilities, Nutrition, Environmental Services, Logistics and others within general services operations, the vaccines were provided to their relatives over age 65 following federal recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We really wanted to take care of the employees that needed this to help keep their families safe,” says event organizer Ellen Pollack, nursing informatics officer at UCLA Health.

Pollack collaborated with several teams, such as nurses, IT staff, registration staff and volunteers who served as interpreters, to bring this event to fruition in less than a week. “Everyone had the attitude of doing whatever it took to get the job done, even if it meant taking on tasks outside of their normal roles,” she says.

Karen Grimley, chief nursing executive at UCLA Health, and assistant dean at the UCLA School of Nursing, was among those rolling up their sleeves to pitch in – she volunteered to inoculate patients.

Norm Lantz, senior director in the division of general services operations at UCLA Health, says it felt like a way for UCLA Health to “give a hug” back to the people that serve as the hidden backbone of the hospital.

“These departments don't have the option of being at home and on Zoom. They’re the ones cleaning patient rooms, in the cafeteria and delivering food trays. You can't fix a light bulb from home,” says Lantz.

For Doris Rodriguez, environmental services senior supervisor at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, bringing in her mother to receive the vaccine allowed her to draw “a sigh of relief.”

Rodriguez’s 69-year-old mother is a three-time cancer survivor and lives with Rodriguez and her family.

“What’s been scary is that I work at the hospital and my husband works for UPS, so we could have brought COVID to the house at any time,” she says. “It was a blessing for UCLA to give us the opportunity to get her the vaccine.”

Rodriguez said she experienced several roadblocks trying to get her mother vaccinated elsewhere. “We tried signing her up online, we called a bunch of places, but they all said they didn’t have the vaccine or available appointments.”

In August 2020, Rodriguez’s son and his fiancée tested positive for COVID-19. As a precaution, Rodriguez had to keep her mother from leaving the house and isolated from her grandson and his family.

“It’s been really hard for my family because of the underlying conditions many of them have,” Rodriguez says, referring to her daughter’s diabetes condition as well as her mother’s high-risk health profile.

When she received the news that she could bring her mother in for vaccination, she “jumped in the car” and brought her to UCLA.

“She was able to beat cancer and we weren’t going to let COVID break her down.”