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Calhoun, health-care officials launch effort to vaccinate high-risk residents

A coordinated effort to vaccinate high-risk residents against COVID-19 is under way through partnerships among area medical organizations in coordination with Calhoun County and state officials. 

Approximately 200 health-care personnel from regional dental, chiropractic and optometrist offices and mental health providers received the coronavirus vaccine Jan. 16 at a clinic at Oaklawn Medical Group – Marshall Internal & Family Medicine, said Kerrie A. Mansfield, director of operations for Marshall-based Oaklawn. 

During the session, representatives of the City of Marshall Fire Department remained on hand to assist with any potential issues, Mansfield said. 

To help curb the coronavirus pandemic, the Calhoun County Public Health Department’s partnership with Oaklawn will continue as Michigan state officials handle distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to the general population. 

“Working together with Oaklawn will be vital these next few months as we vaccinate Calhoun County residents,” said Eric Pessell, the department’s health officer. Calhoun officials held their first vaccine clinic for individuals 65 and older on Jan. 14 in Battle Creek, vaccinating approximately 600 people. 

Pessell said the department has maintained persistent communication with the region’s health-care systems, including the staffs of Oaklawn, Bronson Healthcare, Grace Health and Henry Ford Allegiance Health. 

Additional clinics were to be held this week in Albion, Marshall and in Battle Creek, and the department will schedule more in subsequent weeks as vaccine becomes available, Pessell said.  

Calhoun County residents age 65 and older are being encouraged to call (269) 441-0912 to be placed on a waiting list to receive the vaccine. When the vaccine is available and clinics are scheduled, those on the list can expect to be called to set an appointment. 

“We need to continue to promote vaccine safety, share consistent messaging, and help one another as our vaccine clinics will continue to grow, as we open up to a larger population to receive the vaccine,” Passell said. 

The highest-risk groups have been designated as Category 1A – which including health-care personnel as well as home health aides, medical examiners, funeral workers and public health workers – and Category 1B, which generally includes frontline essential workers and individuals age 65 and older. 

“We hope to be moving on to tier 1B by the end of the month, as  vaccine supply allows,” Mansfield said. 

“We have worked thoroughly to identify all businesses that fit into Phase 1A. Outreach to the community will best be achieved when we all work together,” Pessell said, adding that community leaders should continue to promote precautions against the virus. 

“We will identify other specific 1A and 1B groups that have not been vaccinated by the health department and coordinate those immunizations,” said J. Summer Liston-Crandall, M.D., Oaklawn’s interim medical director and physician 

“When it comes to the ‘mass’ vaccination plan for county seniors and essential workers, we have offered assistance to the health department whether that be staff, volunteers or locations,” Liston-Crandall said. “It makes the most sense for us to team up on this effort so we can serve the community as a whole,” she added.

“The loss of life among the eldest, frailest group of our citizens living in communal settings has been disproportionate and tragic,” Liston-Crandall said. “While we are awaiting our next allotment of vaccine, those seniors living in nursing homes, foster care and other care facilities will be receiving their vaccinations.”

Health-care officials continue to stress that, until vaccines become more widely available, the spread of COVID-19 can be slowed by limiting gatherings with others, practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently and wearing masks in public. 

Two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are required for it to be effective. Updates are expected to be issued by state and local officials as additional vaccine doses become available for additional priority groups.

Liston-Crandall urged public patience as health officials work to obtain the vaccine and deliver it to the designated groups in a structured fashion. 

“This vaccination effort is unlike anything since the polio inoculations of the mid-20th century,” Liston-Crandall said. “We are heartened by the enthusiasm of community members for the COVID vaccine. That enthusiasm could drive impatience. We are asking that community leaders and members bear with us and the public health officials while we enact this enormous chore.”

Trustworthy information about COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination effort is available online through the Calhoun health department’s website at www.calhouncountymi.gov/departments/public_health_department/covid_vaccine.php; the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website at www.michigan.gov/coronavirus and the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html. 

In addition, Michigan residents who wish to volunteer in the vaccination effort are being encouraged to register with the MI Volunteer Registry at www.mivolunteerregistry.org. The registry provides a centralized electronic environment for volunteers to obtain information about how to support a public health or medical emergency response. 

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CAPTION: Myra Covarrubias, DDS, who practices dentistry in Springfield, Michigan, receives the coronavirus vaccine Saturday during a clinic Jan. 16 at Marshall Internal & Family Medicine. Approximately 200 health-care personnel from regional dental, chiropractic and optometrist offices and mental health providers received the coronavirus vaccine at the clinic, conducted by Oaklawn in partnership with the Calhoun County Public Health Department. (Photo by Kerrie A. Mansfield)

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