UC San Diego opens COVID-19 vaccination center on campus

UC San Diego's on-campus vaccination superstation opened Feb. 8.
UC San Diego’s on-campus vaccination superstation opened Feb. 8 with vaccines administered by appointment to UCSD employees and UCSD Health patients 65 and older.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

UC San Diego opened a COVID-19 vaccination superstation at its RIMAC arena Feb. 8 to administer vaccines to university employees and UCSD Health patients, with plans to widen its reach soon.

The hope is to immunize 5,000 people a day if the station can obtain enough vaccine. It gave out 376 doses on opening day.

Currently, the center is serving only UCSD employees and patients 65 and older, said Lydia Ikeda, associate chief operating officer for the UCSD Health Physician Group and for now the senior director of COVID operations.

“Our intention is to open this up to the community,” she said, adding that it could be a matter of days, not weeks.

Chairs are spaced for COVID-19 vaccine recipients inside the new vaccination center at UC San Diego's RIMAC arena.

The center, at 9730 Hopkins Drive, is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Patients must make an appointment using the electronic portal MyUCSDChart and go to the arena to receive their vaccination. Parking for vaccine patients is free on Levels 3-6 of the Hopkins parking structure.

Staff began administering shots at midday Feb. 8 after a morning of preparation. Signs guided patients from the parking structure through the short walk to the arena, where more signs directed people to stand in line and have their appointment confirmation and identification ready.

Ikeda said there is a “quick check-in process” to verify the appointment and then patients go to another line that gets them to the clinic area inside RIMAC arena.

A sign directs people to UC San Diego's new COVID-19 vaccination superstation at the RIMAC arena on campus.
A sign directs people to UC San Diego’s new COVID-19 vaccination superstation at the RIMAC arena on campus.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

After getting their vaccination, patients are led to a large observation area for a 15-minute recovery period, which includes watching video loops with information on COVID safety protocols such as wearing a face mask.

The La Jolla Light was not allowed inside the arena.

Garth Dimkoff said the experience “was like anything else, other than the wait in line. ... I had a 1 o’clock appointment. We got here about 12:45. It was backed up.”

Once inside, “everything went fine,” he said. “I feel great now.”

Pat Higa said: “The line was kind of long when I got here, [but] it went pretty fast. All the signs made it really easy to find and park.”

Higa, a UCSD Health patient, said she drove to her 1 p.m. appointment from Ventura County, which is providing vaccinations only to health care workers and people 75 and older. She was out after about 25 minutes and indicated the process was organized and streamlined.

“I’m good now,” she said. “The flu shot was worse.”

Only a handful of people were in line for vaccines by 1:15 p.m.

The center is giving out both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The former requires a second dose three weeks after the first; Moderna requires a second shot four weeks later.

When patients make their first vaccination appointment, an appointment for the second dose is automatically created for them, Ikeda said.

Ikeda said the new center is staffed by UCSD Health employees, campus employees and local volunteers.

“When we get up to full speed, we’ll do 5,000, 6,000, whatever our capacity can manage per day,” she said.

She said she expects to ramp up capacity “in less than a week. We want to get shots in arms quickly.” ◆