Members MGH's vaccine team at Scotiabank Arena raising hands in celebration.

‘It takes courage’: Michael Garron Hospital plays leading role in breaking world COVID-19 vaccine record

On Sunday, June 27, Michael Garron Hospital partnered with University Health Network, City of Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Scotiabank and hundreds of Team Toronto staff and volunteers to set a new world record: 26,771 COVID-19 vaccines administered at a single-day clinic in one location.

Home to the Raptors and Maple Leafs, the Scotiabank Arena represents a place of hope for Torontonians — cheering on their favourite sports teams, spending an evening with their favourite artists and experiencing memorable moments with friends and family.

On Sunday, June 27, Torontonians took back Scotiabank Arena to make new memories — by breaking a world record for the most COVID-19 vaccines administered at a single-day clinic in one location with 26,771 doses.

At the heart of the massive vaccine clinic operation are a multi-sector dream team led by Michael Garron Hospital (MGH), University Health Network, City of Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment (MLSE), Scotiabank and Team Toronto — comprised of over 1,500 staff and volunteers across 30 organizations, including Toronto hospitals, community partners and Ontario Health Teams.

The Canadian record was previously held by MGH and East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) for administering 10,470 COVID-19 vaccines in less than 24 hours on May 16, 2021. The North American record was previously held by Denton County Public Health, which held a 17,003-dose clinic at Texas Motor Speedway on April 29, 2021. ETHP staff and volunteers were on-site at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday to support the record-breaking clinic, including 50 community ambassadors from TNO — The Neighbourhood Organization and other community agencies. Family physicians from East Toronto Family Practice Network, the physician arm of ETHP, also supported the clinic.

So, what does it take to plan a record-breaking mass vaccine clinic in just over a week?

“Courage,” says Andrew Liu, Director of Pharmacy Services at MGH.

Andrew led the pharmacy vaccine operations for the Canadian record-breaking 10,000-plus vaccine clinic at Thorncliffe Park Community Hub in May. Andrew credits the success of this experience for being able to speedily scale up operations, staffing and logistics to achieve Sunday’s vaccine milestone.  

The pharmacy team of over 150 staff from six GTA hospitals began their Sunday morning at Scotiabank Arena at 5 a.m. to begin preparations two hours in advance of the clinic opening.

Andrew and team spent the week leading up to the event collaborating with MLSE to expertly replicate the infrastructure and supplies required to prepare upwards of 25,000 vaccines with great care and precision — from refrigerator storage and temperature, to the set-up of pharmacy stations equipped with personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, a variety of syringes, labels and more.

With 15 pharmacy teams of nine people filling approximately 3,000 syringes per hour, the clinic was rigorously monitored throughout the day to ensure the precise amount of vaccine was carefully prepared for vaccinators.

“I have such a deep sense of pride for this team. It’s been so rewarding to see our profession contribute so directly to something that has impacted our society so profoundly,” says Andrew.

“This job requires such dedication — the vaccine gig is not a 9-to-5 role and I’m so grateful to my team and so many leaders who have given so much and made personal sacrifices to help make MGH’s vaccine program excel.”

No one knows better the 24/7 nature of the demanding, ever-changing and yet highly rewarding COVID-19 vaccine work better than those at the helm of MGH’s courageous and boundlessly determined vaccine team.

Executive COVID-19 vaccine leads Wolf Klassen, Vice President of Program Support at MGH, and Dr. Jeff Powis, Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control, lead a highly skilled team of MGH leaders responsible for overseeing the planning of hundreds of vaccine and pop-up clinics in partnership with ETHP — operating anywhere from one to 10 clinics in a single day. To date, the team has administered over 250,000 COVID-19 vaccines.  

Co-leads Kevin Edmonson, Laurie Bourne and most recently, Denny Petkovski, alongside Phillip Anthony and Shabina Rangarej, guide the organization and coordination of clinic and mobile vaccine operations, including logistics, staffing, booking, analytics and more; Andrew Liu directs pharmacy operations and Amelia Hoyt manages Information Technology Services; Shelley Darling oversees communications and engagement plans informed by partners and community stakeholders. Together, the MGH vaccine leadership team oversees upwards of 350 to 400 staff, larger than any other program in the hospital.

When asked about the “secret sauce,” Kevin recognizes the highly driven nature of the MGH team.

“We are very grounded in the values of serving our community and doing the right thing — and this means taking an equitable approach,” says Kevin, who commends MGH’s leadership team for putting their trust in them and being comfortable with pushing boundaries.

“It’s because of this trust that our team is able to be so nimble and scale things up quickly.”

Sunday’s world record-breaking clinic is a testament to the power of trusted partnerships and what Torontonians can achieve when diverse sectors come together to support each other.

Marking this milestone at Scotiabank Arena is symbolic in many ways, explains Andrew, who is also a devoted Toronto Raptors fan.

“I remember going to Raptors playoff games and feeling that sense of pride in the community and fan base — experiencing something together that feels different than when you’re watching at home,” says Andrew.

“Being back at Scotiabank feels like the next step in getting back to normal and the activities we used to enjoy together.”

Thank you to all staff, volunteers and partners who supported this remarkable vaccine milestone! MGH would like to share a special thanks to East Toronto Health Partners, East Toronto Family Practice Network and all community partners and leaders that have been so instrumental in the success of East Toronto’s COVID-19 immunization plan.

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