Story by Master Sgt. David Eichaker
Michigan National Guard
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- On Wednesday, Jan. 6, both the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans (GRHV) and the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans (DJJHV) began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations for its resident member and staff populations. The vaccination clinic at GRHV was administered by the Michigan National Guard (MING) and DJJHV was covered through the federal CVS partnership.
“Taking care of and supporting our resident members at the Homes is not only an honor but a duty,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Military and Veterans Affairs. “Having this vaccine available to the resident members at the homes helps ensure they are receiving quality long-term care and is central to our ‘member for life’ concept.”
The combined efforts of the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs (DMVA), the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Kent County Health Department, and other stake holders, ensured that both GRHV and DJJHV were included in the first priority group to receive its vaccination allocation.
“It was truly a team effort getting the vaccine to our Homes,” said Anne Zerbe, executive director, Michigan Veterans Homes. “All skilled nursing facilities are prioritized because the resident population is more vulnerable. We wanted to make sure to get the vaccine as early as possible to minimize the opportunity for our residents and staff to potentially get the virus.”
While DJJHV received its vaccination clinic through the partnership with CVS, a different approach was necessary at GRVH. This required the Homes to work with several agencies in order to execute its vaccination efforts. Critical to this was the natural relationship that exists between the MING and the Homes (both branches of the DMVA).
“The National Guard did a walk-through and laid out the vaccination plan earlier this week,” said Tracey Nelson, administrator, GRHV, adding the Michigan Guard arrived at the facility very early this morning. “This is the brightest light of hope we have had,” said Nelson.
“This will help us get back to a normal way of life as it has been a long lonely road for our members who live here as our members have been isolated to their rooms since October and although all necessary precautions and social distancing will still be followed, this vaccine is going to be a breath of fresh air,” she said.
Every resident member and staff who wanted to receive the vaccination was able to get it today. The GRVH vaccinated 202 staff and 108 resident members. The DJJHV vaccinated 165 staff and 105 resident members.
“The veterans who reside at the Homes served our country and now we are participating in protecting and safeguarding them through the COVID mission,” said U.S. Army Capt. Geoffrey Miller, Michigan Army National Guard, currently assigned to Task Force Spartan, officer in charge of the response to Grand Rapids and D. J. Jacobetti Homes for Veterans.
With more than 80 Michigan Guard members mobilized to support both Michigan Homes for Veterans, their presence and assistance is critical as the Homes continue to fight against this virus and safeguard their resident members and staff.