COLDWATER, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard helped health officials vaccinate hundreds of people at a tri-county vaccination clinic Feb. 18.
"We are doing a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic today," said David Fowler, clinic supervisor of the Coldwater office, Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency.
Fowler said about 400 people received the first dose of the vaccine and almost 200 were administered second doses.
"We are serving several different of the vaccine priority category groups, but 65 and over is the largest that we see," said Fowler. "We are still serving first responders, health care workers, police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, and school personnel."
An elderly brother-sister duo came in for their second doses.
"It's important for us so we don't get the COVID-19 sickness," said Walter Laba. "We are 83 and 81 years old, my sister and I, and I think it's just an important thing to do."
Laba, who served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1960-1966, hopes to see family members soon.
"We don't see family as often as we like," said Laba. "We missed them on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we definitely plan on seeing our nieces and nephews this spring."
Getting communities vaccinated is a challenge. The Michigan National Guard has augmented and partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to ensure maximum coverage of the Great Lakes state. Although there are several Guard members assisting in this task in various capacities, only those who are medically trained and qualified are administering the vaccine.
"Getting to work with the community and, in a way, saving lives has made me feel so proud," said U.S. Army Pfc. Allyson Olson, combat medic, 126th Infantry Regiment, assigned to COVID-19 Vaccination Testing Team Task Force Bronco. "This wasn't what I was expecting to do with my military career, but now I am – and actually giving back to the community in a bigger way than I expected to – it's a proud moment."
Olson, who has just less than two years of service in the Michigan Army National Guard, wants to pursue a civilian career in the medical field.
"My sister was in the National Guard and said I would be a very good fit," said Olson. "I liked the medical field and thought this would be a good way to see if it's actually what I want to do with my life, and it is. I am starting college again in the fall and want to become a registered nurse."