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NEWS | Dec. 29, 2020

Michigan National Guard supports COVID-19 vaccination effort

By Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera Michigan National Guard

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard, on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 since March, is now helping the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) get Michigan residents vaccinated.

Task Force Spartan is providing more than 45 vaccination and testing teams, consisting of medical and administrative personnel, to assist in vaccination and administrative support to local hospitals.

“During Michigan’s COVID-19 response, MDHHS is ensuring medical facilities have access to the COVID-19 vaccine to safeguard our health care professionals,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, MDHHS. “The partnership between MDHHS and the Michigan National Guard is vital to the success of the vaccine distribution and plays a significant role in the success of our mission.”

The teamwork between MDHHS and the MING helps ensure vaccinations are distributed promptly to help mitigate COVID-19 and protect people in Michigan’s 83 counties.

“We are looking forward to ultimately trying to save lives in the state of Michigan,” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Taylor, 63rd Troop Command, Michigan Army National Guard, and senior noncommissioned officer in charge of Task Force Spartan.

Since the spring, the MING has had more than 1,100 Soldiers and Airmen throughout the state supporting communities during the pandemic.

“National Guard members have been essential to our testing strategy and have been providing support to help conduct testing in nursing facilities, prisons and through numerous pop-up testing events across the state,” said Khaldun. “We appreciate their support throughout the pandemic and look forward to our continued partnership as we move into their next chapter of the pandemic.”

The Guard is ready to surge testing and vaccination efforts when needed anywhere in Michigan.

“I think their (MING) ability to have a coordinated, concerted effort is great, and I’m glad they’re involved in the distribution process,” said Dr. Marc McClelland, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids. “I really appreciate their support and service and especially so close to home here with COVID-19.”

McClelland was the first in his hospital to receive the vaccine.

“It was pretty exhilarating because it feels like this moment has been long in coming, and I’d like for everybody to look at this as a really great opportunity,” he said.

Even though McClelland has received the vaccine, he is not letting his guard down. He said there are too many unknowns with a new vaccine, and until most people are vaccinated, he will continue washing his hands thoroughly and wearing his mask.

“This mission is literally saving the lives of people – that is a very powerful sentiment,” said U.S. Army Maj. Douglas Smith, Michigan Army National Guard, and the officer in charge of Task Force Spartan. “The level of effort and passion that our Guardsmen have for helping our communities is amazing to witness.”