Story by Master Sgt. David Eichaker
Michigan National Guard
NILES, Mich.— Safeguarding school students and employees is at the forefront for several school districts as the Michigan National Guard administered second dose coronavirus vaccines on March 12, vaccinating school employees.
“We have seven school districts participating in today’s event,” said Tracy Hertsel, director of student support services and COVID director for Niles Community Schools. “This is a second dose—everyone who was in our first clinic four weeks ago will be here today.”
“We’re vaccinating school staff—more than just teachers—it’s administrators, bus drivers, food service, and any employee from the school districts,” he said.
The Michigan National Guard and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have been working together with local health department to make sure vaccines are available throughout the state.
“Our role is supporting local health departments in inoculations and administration at vaccination events,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Barry Keely, 110th Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. “We have 15 Michigan Army and Air National Guard members to support this event.”
“We are utilizing the Guard’s medical and administrative assets where requested to ensure success in the distribution of the vaccine,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, school districts have been challenged with educational requirements while keeping everyone safe. The coronavirus vaccine fits into the school district’s long-term plan as they seek to return to pre-COVID operations.
“We have a plan to try to keep our teachers in the classroom and the vaccination is a big part of that,” said Hertsel.
“The employees have been feeling very positive about this opportunity in a negative time as it’s been a tough year for them -- this is a feather in their cap to making progress."
"We hope when they leave today, feel a lot better about themselves," he said.
The vaccine brings hope as employees were excited to receive the vaccine and the thought of seeing friends and family.
“I am excited to get the second vaccine,” said Michelle McHale, social worker, Niles Community Schools. “I have not seen family since last summer and am planning on visiting during spring break.”
“I am hopeful for the future we’re moving forward with this pandemic and we’re at the tale-end of it," she said.
Receiving the vaccine provides extra safety measure as schools move fully open up.
“Some of our districts have not been able to host classes in session,” said McHale. “The face-to-face seems to be best for the all the students involved.”
“I appreciate the health department, the National Guard, and for Niles Community Schools opening up their facility to other school districts and hosting this event,” she said.
Others echoed their gratitude for the state’s response.
“We appreciate the National Guard being part of it and they have truly been an asset for this and keep everything moving,” said Hertsel.