Promoting confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines in Midland County is one of Dr. Catherine Bodnar’s goals.
Bodnar is the medical director for the county’s department of public health and she helps oversee the effort to distribute the vaccines. She says about 600 more first doses of the vaccine are expected to be delivered by the end of this week and 1,175 of the second doses, with more anticipated in the following weeks.
“[The rollout] is going very well. We are able to administer all of our inventory within seven days,” says Bodnar. However, “supply of the vaccine has been the biggest challenge yet.”
Midland County staff continually prepped the reception area at the vaccine clinic.
“The demand is totally overwhelming the supply at this time. We’re not unique in that we’re not getting enough of it for as many who want it. We have to be patient,” says Bodnar. “We have to continue to follow the recommended public health measures until then. And once warmer weather comes, we can get outside a bit more. It’ll be better.”
Moving slow and steady
The Midland County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has administered 2,938 first doses of vaccine as of Jan. 30.
Bodnar and her colleagues have held town hall meetings where the public could ask questions regarding the vaccine and its side effects. By addressing concerns about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and its new mRNA technology, she hopes to ease anxieties surrounding the vaccine.
A COVID-19 vaccination clinic was held at the Midland County Services Building on Saturday, Jan. 30.
One common concern people have is the quick rollout. When people ask if she is confident with the vaccine, Bodnar says, “Yes.”
“I understand [the reluctance]. [mRNA] is new technology. Nobody can speak on the long-term effects yet.”
Bodnar says the health department has had one case of a person who received the vaccine and experienced side-effects that lingered for more than 3-4 days. “In that case, we filed a form with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” says Bodnar.
Visit cdc.gov for more information and common questions about COVID-19.
“The technology was already being studied for other pathogens. It was relatively easy to quickly adapt the technology to the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” says Bodnar. “Multiple phases of the vaccine development were going on in parallel instead of in series to develop the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible. Safety and efficacy steps were not skipped. The reason this could be done [in less than one year] was because of government funding. If the government support was not there, a pharmaceutical company would never invest in a vaccine in this way.”
Most of the people who attended the clinic on Jan. 30 received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Some reluctance among health care workers is understandable, she says.
Eighty-percent of MidMichigan Medical Center physicians have received the vaccine while 54% of other hospital and medical staff opted to receive the vaccine.
“I’m happy with those numbers — about half of hospital staff. That’s not surprising. Others have elected to wait,” says Bodnar.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation vaccine monitor, millions of Americans are getting their first COVID-19 vaccinations. The public’s eagerness to get a vaccine is rising across racial and ethnic groups, though Republicans and rural residents remain the most reluctant groups.
Midland County health department staff are busy this winter distributing the COVID-19 vaccines.
Based on a report released on Jan. 27, nearly half (47%) of the public want to get the vaccine as soon as they can or have already been vaccinated. That’s up from the 34% of those in the most eager, “as soon as possible” category in Dec. 2020.
Midland couple and city fire lieutenant share their vaccine experiences
Midland residents Mike and Kathleen Wood both received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 20 with the MCDPH.
Mike, 66, says “we are both really glad we got the shot. We were hoping we could get it as soon as we could. It didn’t hurt at all and we are so glad we are vaccinated,” he says. “We are so blessed,” Kathleen, 63 adds.
Kathleen Wood says she and her husband, Mike, are both glad they got the shot.
The couple, who both retired from Delta College in June of 2020, based their decision on receiving the vaccine on wanting to get back to “some normalcy,” says Mike.
“We want to get back to doing things in town. We thought if we were to get COVID at our age, it wouldn't be good. So we wanted to get the vaccine as soon as it was available,” he says.
Their son, who lives at home and works at Ware-Smith-Woolever Funeral Home in Midland, is considered an essential worker and also wants to receive the vaccine. Mike says he and Kathleen, who is a cancer survivor and has Type 2 diabetes, came to the decision to receive the vaccine “pretty easily.”
First-time vaccine recipients receive a vaccination record card.
“We have always received our vaccinations and our annual flu shot. We have no trepidation at all,” says Mike.
The couple says they both did well following the first dose and did not experience any adverse reactions. “Only a little sore in the arm for about a day and a half,” says Mike. The couple plans to receive their second dose later this month.
Mark Laux, 41, a fire lieutenant with the Midland City Fire Department, says his decision to receive the vaccination wasn’t as clear-cut.
“It was a lack of [vaccine] information early on. It was what I was hearing on social media and [from] other people. I wasn't sure what to believe,” says Laux, who has worked in fire service since 1997 and with the local fire department since 2006.
Laux said it was a combination of factors that helped him determine to get vaccinated, including a Zoom informational meeting held by Bodnar. Laux was able to ask questions that weighed on him about the vaccine.
A wince is a common response when a vaccine recipient gets a shot in the arm.
“I needed more information. After the Zoom and talking to the county health department, I felt more comfortable,” says Laux. “I decided to do it. I’m the one who could potentially bring it home to my wife and kids. Was it selfish of me not to do it?”
Laux is also a rescue specialist with Michigan Task Force 1 (MI-TF1). The 140 person group also encourages its members to receive the vaccine. Part of MI-TF1 work is to be deployed to parts of the country following natural disasters such as hurricanes.
“I understand people have different choices and circumstances. I was comfortable in getting it,” says Laux. “It was super easy; the smallest needle. Not that big of a deal. It stunk for a couple of days, but now I have it and I’m going to move on.”
Laux has received both of his vaccine doses through the MCDPH.
After receiving the vaccine at the drive-thru clinic, recipients sit in their cars for 15 minutes to be monitored for an immediate allergic reaction.
We can’t relax about COVID-19 yet
Bodnar says the number one reason to get a COVID-19 vaccine is “to protect yourself and those around you — family, friends, the community — especially those at high risk for severe disease from the potentially devastating effects of COVID-19. … In a longer-term view, it is to get to community level immunity when 80% of the population has been vaccinated.”
While infection rate numbers “have definitely improved since November, there’s still so much community transmission. We can’t relax about it. We’re going to have to learn to live with [COVID-19],” she says.
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine and the rollout, visit the CDC website. For local information, appointments and distribution, visit the County of Midland’s website.