BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard helped the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services vaccinate hundreds of people in Berrien County as part of a statewide effort to fight COVID-19.
"Today's clinic is a second-dose clinic," said Courtney Davis, deputy health officer for the Berrien County Health Department. "This is primarily our health care workers who we vaccinated earlier in January as well as the 65--and-over population, so today we have just over 700 residents coming in for their second dose."
Davis said four National Guard teams assisted health care workers in vaccinating people.
"We have Guard members helping with the data entry and working with our team in non-medical support roles as well," she said.
Only Guard members who had received the proper training were authorized to administer the vaccination. Michigan Army National Guard combat medics meet those requirements.
"Each of the medics administers the COVID-19 vaccine," said U.S. Army Pfc. Jonah Miller, a combat medic with the 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment.
Miller comes from a military family. His father, an Army veteran, served in Desert Storm, his younger brother is in the Air Force, and his older brother is in a military police unit with the Michigan Army National Guard. This is his second mobilization with the Guard.
"I was on the task force last spring performing COVID-19 testing throughout the state," said Miller. "Although I joined the Guard for education benefits and giving back to the community, I really enjoy seeing and helping people from the communities."
The vaccine brings hope that people can see friends and family soon.
"There is a lot of separation and people need that connection point," said Davis. "I think being to the point of vaccination gives hope that we're getting back to that in the near future. We've heard stories of people not seeing grandkids in months."
"My wife and I have been isolating from family," said Morgan McDonnell, a recipient of the vaccine. "We've been completely isolated –no grocery store or anything and just having everything delivered, so now, this will give us a chance to get us back into real life and see family and friends."
Davis was thankful for the Guard's help in vaccinating the community."
"We couldn't staff our clinics without the National Guard and they have been key to staffing the larger clinics we have hosted," said Davis. "Especially with the vaccinators – we have an amazing public health nurse team, but we only have so many, and the Guard helps us spread our efforts to more areas and to a larger scale."