Getting a boost before the holidays: Health departments ask residents to get their shots

Michigan is breaking COVID-19 records in all the worst ways.

And as the airborne disease surges across the lakeshore and the state, health departments are encouraging residents young and old to get their booster shots or their first doses ahead of the holidays.

“We’re in the middle of this really dangerous surge right now. It really is an important time to think about getting that booster or if you haven’t been vaccinated to get that first dose,” says Alison Clark, a communications specialist with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. “Even getting that first dose would give you some level of protection before you go into the holidays and start gathering with people indoors.”

The vaccines’ full effect begins two weeks after the final dose.

“Particularly with the surge we are experiencing in Michigan, it’s a good thing right now to get that extra layer of protection,” Clark says.

Boosting your protection

Adults who received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines six months ago or more or the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine two months or more ago are now eligible to receive a booster shot.

COVID booster shots can be found at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, the health department, and pop-up clinics. Children as young as 5-years-old are also eligible to receive their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Ottawa County hosts walk-in clinics 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Monday at its offices, 12251 James Street. MAX bus is offering free rides to vaccine clinics. To schedule a ride, call 616-355-1010.

Other vaccine clinics and testing sites can be found at vaccinatewestmi.com.

Vaccine clinic information by county

For vaccine information in Allegan County, visit cms.allegancounty.org/sites/Office/Health/SitePages/COVID19.aspx

For vaccine information in Muskegon County, visit co.muskegon.mi.us/1611/Coronavirus or maskupmuskegon.org.

For vaccine information in Ottawa County, visit miottawa.org/Health/OCHD/coronavirus.htm

More information about clinics can also be found at vaccinatewestmi.org or vaccines.gov/.

Working with community health workers and partners such as Boys & Girls Club, the Salvation Army and food pantries, helps county health departments make sure vulnerable and underserved populations have access to vaccines, Clark says.

Aside from being vaccinated or getting a booster shot, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and others.
  • Wear a mask — especially when in public where you might gather with people you don’t know or if you don’t know their vaccination status
  • Stay home if you’re sick — even the sniffles
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Test before you gather with a group of people
  • Consider smaller groups instead of big group gatherings
Breaking records

“Right now there is so much COVID circulating in the community, you just need to assume it’s COVID until you get tested,” Clark says.

The state continues to break records for the number of new COVID-19 cases reported and the number of hospitalizations.

The COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective at stopping infection. However, they are effective at greatly reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

Hospitals are at 78% capacity in Ottawa County, Clark says, with 39% of those beds filled with COVID-19 patients. It’s a similar story all along the lakeshore.

Unvaccinated patients make up about 85% of the COVID-19 cases in those beds, both here and nationally, according to county health departments and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“We need community members to work together to bring the level of community transmission down before the educational institutions and businesses are impacted further,” Allegan County Medical Director, Dr. Richard Tooker says. “Without quick and intentional action from the community, people can expect a decrease in the capacity for local hospitals to provide COVID-19 interventions, other emergency services, and routine care for other health concerns. We may see more schools and businesses close due to widespread illness and staff shortages”

It’s not really about just COVID any more, Clark says. If you fall off a ladder or are in a car accident or have a heart attack, “you might not have access to care, because our healthcare system is so strained,” Clark says.

“It is really important for all of us to do what we can right now to help our health care system,” she says.

And that means wearing a mask and being vaccinated against COVID-19.