LANSING, Mich. – The first 90 days of 2021, the Michigan National Guard administered more than 323,000 COVID-19 vaccinations in the fight against the virus.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services asked the Guard to support community health care organizations with logistical and medical assets for COVID-19 vaccinations across the state.
“During Michigan’s COVID-19 response, MDHHS is ensuring medical facilities have access to the COVID-19 vaccines to safeguard our residents,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, MDHHS. “The partnership between MDHHS and the Michigan National Guard has been vital to the success of the vaccine distribution and plays a significant role in the success of our mission.”
The MING established COVID-19 Vaccination Testing Teams (CVTT) comprised of medics and administrative assistants. Since January, more than 680 Michigan Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen on CVTTs have supported health departments at vaccination clinics statewide.
“Our small department of 12 employees and several volunteers could never accomplish the task of vaccinating the residents of our county without the assistance of the Michigan National Guard,” said Lisa Burmeister with the Crawford County Health Department in Grayling.
Others echoed that sentiment.
“We’re planning on having 300 vaccines administered today,” said Jim Cook, emergency preparedness coordinator, Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency. “I think this is really good for residents of a small town to see the Guard come here in a helping capacity.”
One of the largest clinics was held at Delta College, where more than 2,600 people from three counties were vaccinated over two days. More than 90 Guard Soldiers and Airmen assisted.
“The eight weeks of planning for this weekend event is proving to be a complete success,” said U.S. Army Cpt. Jacob Burt, commanding officer of the 107th Engineer Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard, and the CVTT officer in charge. “The hard work of our Soldiers and Airmen combined with the local health department workers is nothing short of extraordinary.”
MING members began administering vaccines under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, starting with the elderly and first responders.
“We have a lot of contact with the public,” said 1st Lt. Jay Poupard, operations section commander, Michigan State Police. “We want to ensure our employees, who choose to receive the vaccine to help keep them safe, have that opportunity.”
Older people who received the vaccine shared that enthusiasm.
“It’s important to my wife and I because we’re interested in protecting our health,” said Chuck Abshagen from Onaway. “We’re concerned about COVID, and we’ve been anxiously waiting to get the vaccine.”
The MING also supports school districts as they take steps to safeguard students and employees.
“We have seven school districts participating in this event,” said Tracy Hertsel, director of student support services and COVID director for Niles Community Schools. “We’re vaccinating school staff – more than just teachers – it’s administrators, bus drivers, food service, and any employee from the school districts.”
The Michigan National Guard has also supported local health care facilities throughout the state.
“I think their (MING) ability to have a coordinated, concerted effort is great and I’m glad they’re involved in the distribution process,” said Dr. Marc McClelland at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids. “I really appreciate their support and service and especially so close to home here with COVID-19.”
Another MING priority is supporting Michigan’s veterans. At one event, Guard members and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency vaccinated more than 290 military veterans 50 and older, their spouses, and caregivers.
“We believe anyone who has worn the uniform of our nation is a member for life, so high-quality care and benefits for our veterans could not be more meaningful to us as we continually seek to honor and serve those who have served before us,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
The Guard is expected to continue helping with COVID-19 vaccinations through the spring.