Michigan National Guard
Story by Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera
As Kalamazoo County opened up COVID-19 vaccine availability to residents 50 and older with pre-existing conditions and food service workers, the Michigan National Guard was there to help administer vaccines.
The first vaccination clinic to include the new categories in Kalamazoo began March 17, 2021, at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center which saw as many as 2,500 residents receive vaccines.
“We needed it, we needed a game plan and a backup and we are glad the Michigan National Guard was on hand to help us out,” said William Manuszak, a restaurant owner in Kalamazoo.
Manuszak wanted to get his vaccine as soon as he could because he handles food on a daily basis for others in the community, but he was not there alone. Joining him was his wife and their 16-year-old son as they both help in the family-run restaurant.
“We did this for our family and friends, for our customers, our employees and for the nation because we’ve all got to do it together,” said Manuszak.
He was happy to see so many other county residents getting the vaccine as well and feels that in any other time that they would all be high-fiving each other on a job well done.
“It feels good to be able to offer it (the vaccine) to more people, that’s what our end goal is, to give it to as many people as possible,” said Penny Born, the personal health division manager for the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department. “I’m glad it’s opening up because people are anxious and fearful, we want to give them some vaccine in their arms to help them in protecting themselves.”
Born said opening up vaccine availability to food service workers was very important because they have been out working this whole time and collectively keeping the rest of the community well by providing an essential service.
“It feels like we’re turning a corner, we’re finally making some progress and it feels good, especially compared to where we were a year ago,” said Born. “It feels like we are doing something to prevent this virus so it feels really good that we are making a dent.”
Helping them make that dent is the Michigan National Guard who has sent out multiple vaccination teams to Kalamazoo to help with large clinics at the expo center. Collectively the Guard has vaccinated about 10,000 Kalamazoo County residents and has played a large part in why the county is now able to move on to other categories. For example, 70 percent of county residents 65 and older, have received both of their doses.
“We’re kind of now seeing all the population, instead of just the elderly population and now we are getting to treat broader segments of people,” said U.S. Army Spec. Lucas Tratechaud. “We’re slowly working our way to a fully vaccinated Michigan.”
Tratechaud is a combat medic with Task Force Bronco, a COVID-19 response task force assembled by the Michigan National Guard to help county health departments with the vaccines.
“It feels really good to be part of a state side mission and actually being able to work in the community and help people I might be friends of friends with—I’m glad to be part of it,” he said.
Tratechaud was already a certified emergency medical technician before joining the Michigan Army National Guard. While he thought he knew a lot about emergency medicine before, it was nothing compared to all the qualifications he now has. The most import is the ability to help provide COVID-19 vaccines to the public along with families.
“I personally think that it’s amazing to give the vaccine to a whole household, because we are protecting everyone in that house instead of just certain members,” said Tratechaud.