'A Thousand Shots of Love' sets big goal of 1,000 COVID-19 vaccinations in Kalamazoo County

No appointment, no charge, no documentation needed, and even transportation is provided to those who need it.

To reach its goal of giving 1,000 Covid 19 vaccinations in one day, clinic organizers are making it easy peasy lemon squeezy for people to get their shots.

In its biggest pandemic-related clinic yet, Family Health Center aims to give 1,000 Kalamazoo County residents A Thousand Shots of Love, at a drive-through vaccination clinic May 25.

The free clinic will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 25 at Kalamazoo  Regional Education Services Agency headquarters, 1819 E. Milham Ave., Portage and features the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Walk-in patients will be accepted as well as those who schedule appointments. 

The second dose appointment will be on Tuesday, June 15 at KRESA with patients returning at the same time as their first appointment.

Patients who need only a second dose may also attend the May 25 clinic, but are asked to call ahead so the staff is prepared.

The clinic is a joint effort of Family Health Center, Bronson Healthcare, and the Kalamazoo Regional Education Services Agency.

“Protecting the health of Kalamazoo residents, especially those in our most vulnerable neighborhoods, means we must do everything possible to get people vaccinated,” says Denise Crawford, President and CEO of Family Health Center.

For now, all residents of Kalamazoo County ages 16 and up are eligible to attend; that group may expand to include ages 12-15 now that U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given its approval. On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 12 to 15. A vaccine trial by Pfizer including more than 2,000 children ages 12 to 15 showed the vaccine's efficacy is 100 percent and is well received.

Undocumented immigrants, too, are eligible for vaccination at this clinic.

That’s because, in Michigan, you don't need documentation to get the vaccine. That’s right, en Michigan, no necesita documentación para recibir la vacuna.

Evangelina Alvarez, a representative of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, says people do not need a state identification or driver's license to get the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccine is free regardless of immigration status.

Although appointments aren’t required, organizers encourage registration so people can get through the clinic as quickly as possible. To register, call the FHC COVID-19 hotline at 269-488-0804.

Metro Transit is providing free rides to vaccine clinics and health plans are offering stipends for rides to those who schedule their appointments in advance. Family Health Center offers ride assistance for those who call and make the request.

Removing every obstacle to participation should help the success of this, the biggest drive-through effort yet.

“We’re eager to reach our goal of 1,000 vaccinations because that’s 1,000 more people protected against this dangerous disease,” Crawford says.

On May 10, the Kalamazoo County Health Department shows that 53 percent of Kalamazoo County’s adults older than 16 have received at least one dose of vaccine;  215,199 total vaccinations have been given to Kalamazoo County residents —118,570 first doses and 96,629 second doses.

“The Governor’s goal for herd immunity is 70 percent,” Crawford says. “We are at 55.3 percent of Kalamazoo County residents who have initiated their vaccination and 45.1 percent of eligible residents who are fully vaccinated.”

Crawford says past drive-thru clinics have delivered more than 5,000 vaccinations to date, and the process goes quickly.

“Start to finish, we have been averaging 20 to 30 minutes for the vaccination process including the 15 minute observation time,” Crawford says. Pre-registration keeps things moving quickly.

Many people return to work after receiving their shot, she says. “Frequently the worst symptom is soreness in the upper arm.”

Even though every effort is made to assure the process is quick and painless, “we know some people may be nervous,” she says, “so our team does everything possible to inform them, answer their questions and make the experience as smooth as possible. 

“Some patients show up with family members, pets, even stuffed animals,” Crawford says. “We celebrate them and make sure they feel cared for.”
She adds that Family Health Center is in business to ensure the poor and the vulnerable have access to quality healthcare.

“In addressing this pandemic, we are open and willingly seeking any and all residents for our vaccination clinics because none of us will flourish until all of us can flourish,” Crawford says. “Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend this event.”

She says that in many ways, the pandemic has only highlighted the health disparities seen for decades and for many of the same underlying reasons.  

“Those communities of black and brown skin, communities with lower educational attainment, and those traditionally vulnerable residents have been the most hard-hit by COVID-19,” Crawford says. 

“A positive outcome of the COVID-19 vaccine outreach is that these disparities and barriers were addressed early on by the President and our Governor and measures were put in place to provide outreach to our most impacted neighborhoods,” Crawford says. “One example of this is the Governor’s priority for providing doses of vaccine and instructions to reach out to the rural and urban areas where residents may traditionally have had difficulties in obtaining the vaccine to organizations like Family Health Center. 

“At Family Health Center,” she continues, “we are focusing our efforts on meeting our residents where they are—in parking lots of the local schools or popular stores, and in neighborhoods where residents can walk up if they face transportation issues.”

But the largest obstacle may be people’s reluctance to get the vaccine.
 
The same groups hardest hit by the pandemic also demonstrate a significant hesitancy for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Crawford says that is because the medical community and the government have not historically demonstrated the care, respect, and transparency to these groups that they deserve.

“Our largest concern at the moment is that many of our residents are still experiencing significant vaccine hesitancy. The ongoing body of work running parallel with the vaccination events themselves is to ensure our residents have accurate information about vaccine safety and efficacy so they are able to make informed decisions about getting vaccinated without relying on rumor, misinformation, or historical bias against the government or medical community. 

Vaccine Q and A 

If all 1000 shots are given the day of the clinic, how big a step is this toward Kalamazoo County’s herd immunity?

Harvard Medical School says herd immunity is reached when enough people become immune to a disease to make its spread unlikely; at that point, everyone is protected, even those who are not themselves immune

“Every little bit helps,  but we are literally tens of thousands of vaccines away from herd immunity,” Crawford says, “which is why it is going to take efforts across the community to reach the 70 percent goal.  “As a community, we have a ways to go.” 

Herd immunity by county matters and this is where it starts, particularly as far as opening up and establishing normalcy at home, she says. “The ideal goal is to obtain herd immunity across the country but our focus is to work locally so that together, we can get there.”

If the clinic fails to meet its lofty 1,000-shot goal at this clinic, though, no vaccine will go to waste, she assures.

“We always have a Plan B for vaccine doses. We carefully monitor vials of vaccine onsite and almost never have waste,” Crawford says. “Through monitoring, we do not open or puncture a vial without a high degree of certainty that we have arms available to put them in. Doses of COVID-19 vaccine are a very precious commodity and are treated as such by all healthcare entities administering it.”

Family Health Center is a non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center serving the citizens of Kalamazoo County. It provides quality health care to some 30,000 historically underserved patients.

TO REGISTER

• To register for a vaccination, call the FHC COVID-19 hotline at 269-488-0804.

TOWARD HERD IMMUNITY

• Across Michigan, nearly 53 percent of the state's 8 million people have been vaccinated. How are the counties of Southwest Michigan faring as they aim for herd immunity? Here are the percentages of the vaccinated population as of May 10, 2021, not including 12-16-year-olds. With the additional FDA approval for children 12-15, all of the data will need to be reformulated.

Kent 55 percent
Kalamazoo 53 percent
Ottawa 53 percent 
Van Buren 46.6 percent
Allegan 45 percent 
Berrien 45 percent
Barry 43 percent
Calhoun 42 percent
Cass 32 percent
St. Joseph 38 percent
Branch 38 percent

In Eastern Michigan:
Washtenaw 61 percent
Oakland 59 percent
Wayne 59 percent

These numbers are from Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department and represent all entities administering COVID-19 vaccinations.

 

Read more articles by Rosemary Parker.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years, most of that time in Southwest Michigan.
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