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UC San Diego’s COVID-19 vaccination supercenter at RIMAC arena closes

A freshly vaccinated person exits the vaccination superstation at UC San Diego's RIMAC arena in February.
A freshly vaccinated person exits the vaccination superstation at UC San Diego’s RIMAC arena in February.
(Jarrod Valliere / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Others are expected to follow toward the end of the month.

UC San Diego Health put COVID-19 shots in arms for the last time June 1 at its RIMAC arena before closing the on-campus location for good at the end of the day.

It’s quite a milestone for San Diego County and the university health system, which was the first in the state to go big with its vaccination superstation near Petco Park in downtown San Diego. That operation was forced out in March as the Major League Baseball season approached, leaving RIMAC as the university’s sole remaining high-volume vaccination location.

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.

Dr. Christopher Longhurst, UCSD Health’s chief information officer, who helped implement the big push, called the closure the “end of an era” but emphasized that it is time for the vaccination effort to start to look more like normal health care.

Vaccination, he said, is simply getting more personalized and nimble now that the initial rush has ramped down.

“We look forward to continued community partnerships with our mobile units and are excited that we are now stocking our clinics so every patient will have an opportunity to consider vaccinating at outpatient visits,” Longhurst said.

Sharp HealthCare and Scripps Health continue to operate superstations across the region, but those organizations said they, too, intend to shed their high-volume infrastructure late this month. Sharp has superstations in La Mesa, Chula Vista, Coronado, San Marcos and central San Diego. Scripps has a drive-through operation at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Of course, the state’s vaccination lottery, which dangles millions in prizes to those who have received at least one dose by June 15, could produce a sudden surge in vaccination demand. Many might come forward at the last minute hoping to get in on drawings that will award $1.5 million to 10 Californians who the state’s vaccine registry indicates have received at least one dose.

Drawings for those prizes are scheduled for Tuesday, June 15, the same day California is scheduled to scrap its tier-based reopening system, allowing businesses, venues and other organizations to resume operating at full capacity and, in most cases, mask-free.

Scott Evans, chief executive of Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, said he didn’t have any concerns about the region’s ability to handle such a surge, even with RIMAC no longer in operation.

“If we see any changes over the next few weeks that would indicate we do have a surge in demand, then we’re flexible enough to be able to maintain those supersites,” Evans said. ◆