In just over two months, San Juan Vans in Bayfield completed its most unusual conversion: From a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, it crafted a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Animas Surgical Hospital.
Taylor Ripp, owner of San Juan Vans, said ASH CEO Joe Theine first contacted him in late January about the possibility of converting a van to serve as a mobile clinic – something that could be used to provide on-site workplace vaccinations.
“We’re super busy, but we moved things around to get this done because it’s so important,” Ripp said. “You want to get as many people vaccinated now as soon as you can.”
In combination with ASH staff members, San Juan Vans came up with a design for the mobile clinic that would use medical-grade materials all around to meet strict medical standards for easy sterilization.
At the heart of the project are two refrigerators, with redundant power sources to ensure they would never lose power to keep vaccine doses properly chilled.
The refrigerators, which look like big high-end picnic coolers, are also portable so they can be taken out of the van and carried into any workplace where they can be plugged in – violá, ASH can set up a vaccination clinic inside any workplace with a spare power outlet.
Employers can schedule workplace vaccination clinics on ASH’s website.
Theine said the design was a collaborative effort between the San Juan Vans crew, who specialize in van conversions to campers, and ASH medical staff members, who provided the design details about what would be needed for a functioning mobile vaccination clinic.
“We visited Taylor’s shop, and we literally walked through the van and talked about how to best lay things out,” Theine said. “It’s designed in such a way that we could drive the van up into a parking lot and use a small space – the smallest space we need is two parking spots – to deliver vaccines outside.
“And then because of the style of the refrigerators that we were able to get, they can easily be removed from the van, and we could take them into a place of work if we were going to do something indoors in a larger space.”
The three power supply sources for the refrigerators are a 410-watt solar panel on the Sprinter’s roof, a conventional plug-in cord usable with any building outlet and charging from the Sprinter’s alternator when the van is on the road.
“There’s all sorts of redundancies built into the system,” Ripp said.
The Sprinter’s ventilation was beefed up to handle the two medical-grade refrigerators, sliders were designed so they could be easily pulled out and removed and an alarm system was installed that goes off anytime the refrigerators deviate by 1 degree Fahrenheit from the proper storing temperature for vaccines.
“This is like nothing we’ve ever built,” Ripp said. “Normally, we’re dealing with a lot of wood. People want their vans to be homey. Here, we were dealing with a lot of metal, medical-grade aluminum so everything can be cleaned easily. The wall panels are fiberglass reinforced plastic, materials they use in medical settings.”
San Juan Vans put in sliding windows. They fully insulated it and provided a heater that works off diesel so it could be used in winter.
Other features added by San Juan Vans included placing front chairs on swivels, installing two other swiveling chairs in the back, putting in two work tables and a work bench, and finally putting in power outlets throughout.
“It was just an empty cargo van when they brought it to us,” Ripp said.
Some features of the mobile clinic, Ripp said, will be carried over for some high-end van-to-camper conversions.
Most campers have a 200-watt solar panel, and the 410-watt panel provides more electricity, which is always in demand.
In addition, the easy-to-clean cabinets in the mobile clinic are something that would be popular in campers, Ripp said.
Even before the mobile clinic was finished, ASH conducted two on-site vaccination clinics at Steamworks Brewing Co. and Bird’s, where more than 150 restaurant workers received vaccinations.
“Honestly, the clinics went great,” Theine said. “The employees were thrilled and excited. Just given their work schedules, it’s challenging for them to be able to schedule both doses, to find the time to come in.
“If we can deliver the vaccinations on-site, it takes the logistics out of it, and it makes it an easy decision for them to get vaccinated.”