Berrien County Health Dept Updates Vaccine Situation, Encourages Patience

The  Berrien County Health Department, which has been doing a spectacular job of administering the COVID-19 vaccination to thousands of residents across Michigan’s Great Southwest is joining the team at Spectrum Health Lakeland in updating the community on the status of the process today, while encouraging everyone to please be patient with the process.

Both organizations continue to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to those who are eligible and interested and working to do it as quickly as possible. Aligning with state benchmarks, the collective goal is to distribute at least 90-percent of the vaccines allocated within seven days of receipt. To date, more than 7,000 vaccinations have been given to health care workers, emergency medical and first responders, and long-term care residents, as well as those who are at highest-risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to risk factors, such as age or exposure due to occupation.

Over the past week, both Spectrum Health Lakeland and the Berrien County Health Department have run large-scale mass vaccination clinics distributing COVID-19 vaccinations to approximately 1,000 people per day. Both the hospital and health department plan to further expand capacity to operate multiple large-scale vaccination clinics each week, as vaccine supply allows.

There remains an overwhelming desire for COVID-19 vaccinations in Berrien County, particularly amongst those over the age of 65. To date, more than 19,000 older adults have expressed interest in being vaccinated via the Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland vaccine surveys.

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Nicki Britten, Health Officer, Berrien County Health Department, says, “While it is encouraging to see so many eager individuals who are ready to be vaccinated, the demand for the vaccine is far outpacing the supply coming into Berrien County,” and cautions, “Vaccine allocations are unpredictable; recently the total number of vaccines delivered to Berrien County ranges between 1,000 to 2,500 doses a week. At the rate that vaccines are being allocated, it will take time to move through all those who are eligible and interested in getting the vaccine.”

Because vaccine supplies continue to be limited and are allocated to Berrien County by the state one week at a time, vaccination appointments continue to be opened and filled within the span of each week. To make the most efficient use of scarce vaccine resources, all clinics operated by both Spectrum Heath Lakeland and the Health Department are by appointment only and not open to the general public at this time.

The most efficient way to indicate interest in receiving a COVID-19 vaccination appointment is to complete the pre-registration wait list available on the Berrien County Health Department website (for those over the age of 65 and employers of essential workers) at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vaccinewaitlist or complete the survey available via Lakeland MyChart located under “questionnaires” in the My Record section: https://www.spectrumhealthlakeland.org/patient-visitor-guide/my-chart

The Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland will be using those lists as the primary means of confirming eligibility and notifying community members when they are able to schedule a vaccination according to the communication preference they selected, either phone or email. Individuals on those waitlists will not receive a “confirmation” email or notification of their status on the list, but rather must wait until either organization has vaccine availability to schedule them for an appointment. Completing either survey does not mean individuals will be scheduled for an appointment immediately; individuals should anticipate that it may be several weeks before they receive notification of appointment availability.

Both agencies are collaborating with community organizations such as senior centers, Area Agency on Aging and PACE to reach homebound individuals, and have specialized outreach methods for reaching those with limited internet access. People are encouraged to assist their family and friends with the online pre-registration process, particularly those over the age of 65 who may be without internet access or email.

Planning is underway to provide vaccinations to additional groups who are now eligible under the prioritization guidance issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, including childcare providers and pre-K through high school staff within the next few weeks. Other essential workers not currently eligible as well as people between the ages of 16 and 64 with health conditions that puts them at higher risk for serious COVID-19 complications, can expect to receive vaccinations by late-spring or early-summer.

Spectrum Health Lakeland and the Health Department are asking for continued patience as planning is ongoing and appointment availability continues to expand. More information about the process for vaccination in Berrien County is available at http://bchdmi.org/COVID19 or http://spectrumhealthlakeland.org/COVID19.