New 'vaccine van' in Kansas City is part of larger shift in mobile health care

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Posted at 5:00 AM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 07:24:20-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A van equipped with WiFi, a solar panel plus a backup generator, medical refrigerator, storage for personal protective equipment and more, is now on the move around Kansas City, Missouri, to help vaccinate the public.

Comeback KC, a public-private partnership to help the region bounce back from the pandemic, announced plans for a vaccine van in February with the thought of potentially delivering the vaccine door to door to the home-bound.

The van made its first stop last week at Redemptorist Social Services Center.

“It just gives you the ability to meet a lot of different kinds of needs,” Aaron Deacon, the managing director of KC Digital Drive said.

KC Digital Drive is supporting Comeback KC and its “Two Million Arms KC” mission to get people in the region vaccinated against COVID-19.

At Redemptorist, Heart to Heart International used the van to prepare the vaccine in syringes before moving to a room inside to administer the vaccine on what turned out to be a rainy day.

“I think the van is going to be an excellent tool for that specific task. It has a great workspace, it has refrigeration right there and the power to the refrigerator, plus the backup generator will help us make sure we maintain vaccine temperature,” Tena Tiruneh, Heart to Heart International laboratory director said.

Black and Veatch designed the van as part of a brand new division the Overland Park, Kansas-based engineering firm launched to combat COVID-19 in 2020.

The van is called a rapid modular health system, or “RaMHS” for short.

“Within a day, we can be onsite with any clinic in any community with a mobile, modular health unit to support vaccinations and testing right away,” Dave Johnson from Black and Veatch’s RaMHS team said.

Black and Veatch placed its first RaMHS unit outside Saint Luke’s Health System’s Plaza location last April.

It looked like a shipping container. Now the firm has refined its designs which currently serve clients like the University of Kansas, Smithfield Foods, Disney and Walmart.

The RaMHS design won an Edison Award in the “COVID-19 Innovations: Mobilizing for Emergency Response” category last month.

The new, mobile van concept is gaining traction and creators believe RaMHS will be here to stay after the pandemic.

“Eventually what we’ll do is transform the solution from just fighting COVID to equipping it with more technology, and some additional partners so we can support mobile clinics in the urban core and rural areas mostly,” Johnson said.

Fighting COVID around Kansas City could change medical care around the world.

The Patterson Family Foundation, Willoughby Designs and Dimensional Innovations all contributed to the vaccine van project.