Michigan National Guard vaccinates Cherry Capital of the World

A Soldier with the Michigan Army National Guard currently assigned to COVID-19 Vaccination Testing Team Task Force North, Michigan National Guard administers a first dose immunization during a mass vaccination clinic, Traverse City, Michigan, Feb. 23, 2021. The Michigan National Guard has augmented with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to support local health care organizations, as requested, in the administration of the vaccine to Michiganders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. David Eichaker)

Michigan National Guard

Story by Master Sgt. David Eichaker

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.— Known for its cherries and as The Cherry Capital of the World, Traverse City recently had Michigan National Guard (MING) and the Grand Traverse Health Department host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic during Michigan’s fight against the novel virus.

“Today we are doing 600 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the 65 years and older population,” said Michael Lahey, Grand Traverse County Health Department, currently serving as site command of the mass vaccination clinic in Traverse City, Michigan. “We have the Michigan National Guard and local public health department staff working collaboratively to administer the vaccine.”

The Michigan National Guard has been performing various roles within the mass clinic. Vaccinators, assistants, and post-vaccination observers can help keep the process flowing smoothly.

“The Guard helps with the observation room as well,” said Lahey. “That is a big bottleneck area when you start vaccinating 600+ people a day and the observation room will swell because of the 15-30 minute observation time required.”

One resident, a retired respiratory therapist, talks about what the vaccine means to her.

‘It’s been a long year,” said Jan Shifferd, from Williamsburg, Michigan, who retired after 42 years as a therapist.

Receiving the vaccination brings a sense of optimism in seeing her relatives soon.

“I received the vaccine to protect myself, grand kids, and family,” said Shifferd. “My mom is 99 and is doing fantastic, but has not seen anybody in almost a year.”

The COVID-19 inoculation is a multi-vaccination process, with the second dose scheduled between three to four weeks after receiving the first dose.

“Will be returning in three weeks for the second dose and are very excited about it,” said Shifferd. “We’ve been anxious to see my mom and she is getting her second shot today so we’re hoping in March, we can go inside, visit and play cards again with mom.”

At the request of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan National Guard has been assisting local health departments where needed, and it takes a multitude of small tasks to have successful events.

“A really important component right now based on the population being vaccinated is mobility,” Lahey. “Last week we held a clinic for residents in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and the snow presented a lot of mobility challenges.”

“The previous week we had about 11 wheelchairs being constantly used and the MING really helped moving that clientele through the building safely and effectively,” he said.

Overall, the success of these mass vaccination events could not be achieved without a team effort.

“We are thankful for the partnerships that have created this platform to conduct this clinic safely and effectively,” said Lahey.

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