Since it is offering 30,000 square feet of its warehouse to create Arizona’s first indoor, drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine center, it’s tempting to rebrand Dexcom as “vaxcom.”
Jim Kasselmann, senior director of manufacturing for the Mesa glucose monitor producer, stressed this is all about community support.
“We were thinking of ways on how can we help the community. We knew summer time is coming and these outdoor PODs would have to move indoors,” he said.
Indeed, many are waiting for hours at State Farm Stadium and other vaccine points of distribution — or PODs — run by the state.
A portion of Dexcom’s 500,000-square-foot Mesa Regional Distribution Center at 8046 E. Ray Road (near the Loop 202 and Power Road) will be open for regional vaccine distribution from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning tomorrow, April 5.
Dexcom’s Arizona Department of Health Services site will replace the outdoor one at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
Kasselmann stressed that, while Dexcom is providing the space, the process is being handled by the state, from online registration to the shots.
Registration, he noted, “Is purely online – no walk ups or drive-ups.”
“We had two people show up last Friday, saying, ‘Can we get our shots?’ I said, ‘Not today and you have to register online,’” he said.
Partners in the “vaxcom” project include the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, City of Mesa, Walgreens and Arizona State University.
Before offering the site to the state, Kasselmann said he received support from the city, including a visit from the Mesa Fire Department to assess safety. “Everyone’s been very helpful,” he said.
State leaders expressed great appreciation for the Mesa company’s innovative offer.
“As the hot summer months approach, we want to ensure our vaccination sites continue to operate efficiently,” said Gov. Doug Ducey, in a press release. “Health care professionals, volunteers, staff, and those getting vaccinated need access to safe, weather-friendly sites as vaccine doses are administered and this indoor site helps address that need.
“My thanks to Dexcom and the Arizona Department of Health Services for their proactive work to protect Arizonans.”
Those who received first doses at the Chandler-Gilbert facility on March 14 and after have been scheduled for their second doses at the Dexcom site, according to the state.
“We’re grateful for the support from Dexcom and other partners to make this indoor site a reality and maintain our momentum getting vaccine to Arizonans,” said ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ. “Patients, staff, and volunteers will be grateful as well since we’re nearing the point when operating outside will become hazardous as temperatures climb.”
The site will start out offering 3,000-4,000 appointments a day, ramping up to 12,000 appointments per day and a 24/7 operation. Appointments are required for those visiting the site.
To register, visit podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Those without computer access or needing extra help registering can call 1-844-542-8201.
Kasselmann said donating the space through the summer will not disrupt Dexcom’s operations, which continue to expand.
“Four years ago to the date, there were three of us here,” he said with a chuckle. “Then on April 3 (2017), we opened doors for operations and started with 40 (employees). Now we are at 1,000. The growth has been really positive … We’ve worked with the city of Mesa’s Economic Development and they’ve been very supportive.”
He said he anticipates hiring more in the future as Dexcom prepares for an updated version of its glucose monitors, used by people with diabetes to measure blood sugar.
What Dexcom, which is headquartered in San Diego, regularly does ties in with it becoming a vaccine site, Kasselmann noted.
“Type 1 diabetic patients are our principal base. They are particularly susceptible to complications from COVID. So that’s another reason to get engaged,” he said.
Beyond helping the community with vaccines, the Dexcom-vaxcom operation may spread throughout the country.
“The Department of Military Affairs thinks other states will be looking to this model,” Kasselmann said.