GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Health officials say DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids will serve as a countywide COVID-19 vaccine center beginning on Monday, but distribution will be by appointment only.

The Kent County Health Department, Spectrum Health, Mercy Health and other Vaccinate West Michigan participants are partnering to make the site possible.

Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health, says the goal is for the site to administer up to 20,000 doses per day. However, he noted it’s currently curtailed due to a limited stock of doses.

“A key part of this new clinic is we can truly scale it to give thousands of vaccines a day to community members,” Elmouchi said at a Friday media briefing. “Obviously we all know the key is to get the vaccine so we can actually administer them.”

Officials say they selected DeVos Place because it has adequate parking and its centrally located. It’s also on bus routes and near multiple interstate highways.

Trucks arriving at the loading dock at  DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids. The center will be used as a  countywide COVID-19 vaccine center. (Jan 22, 2021) 
Trucks arriving at the loading dock at DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids. The center will be used as a countywide COVID-19 vaccine center. (Jan 22, 2021)

The clinic will offer vaccines by appointment based on availability. There will be limited appointments to start, the health department said.

Brian Brasser, chief operating officer of Spectrum Health Grand Rapids, said 7,200 doses has been allocated to be administered to the center next week.

“The reality is there a bit of an unknown (when the site can scale up),” Brasser said.

“The key message from the west side of the state is we are ready. It’s hard to project exactly when we can ramp up. The silver lining is we will learn through this. We will allow our team members to be acclimated here. We will be scaling up to recruit volunteers to support and as the vaccine becomes available — we will be ready,” he added.

While the state now says that more essential workers and people over the age of 65, in addition to health care workers and those in nursing homes, can get the COVID-19 vaccine, a large rollout has been stymied by a limited stock of doses. Public health officials have urged patience as the ability to get an appointment is hit-and-miss.

The convention center has been largely empty since March 2020, when the state instituted broad shutdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

While it is a large facility, there are not enough vaccines to use its full capacity. The goal is to schedule more appointments as additional vaccines become available, according to a news release from the health department.

  • Officials prepare the inside of  DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids to be used as  a countywide COVID-19 vaccine center. (Jan 22, 2021) 
  • Officials prepare the inside of  DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids to be used as  a countywide COVID-19 vaccine center.

In West Michigan, you can keep an eye on to see when appointments open up in your area, including at the DeVos Place.

If you’re unable to use the website, those eligible can call 833.755.0696 to complete their registration. Call volumes are very high and registering online is much quicker. Officials ask only people who are eligible to get a vaccine and don’t have internet access use the phone line. 

People are asked to come to their appointment by themselves unless they need assistance or require a legal guardian or a durable power of attorney for healthcare to go with them. 

Vaccine recipients will be asked to wait in an observation area for 15 minutes after getting the shot. 

Child care will not be available onsite, but children will be allowed to enter the clinic with their parents. Masks and social distancing will be required. 

Parking will be available in the ramp under DeVos Place, accessible from Michigan and Lyon streets. Those receiving a shot will get two hours of free parking. Additional parking options will be shared with those who have an appointment.

DeVos Place can be reached by taking the Silver Line, Laker Line and #11 Plainfield bus routes.

Spectrum is already holding smaller clinics at its facilities after reaching out to patients who are eligible for the vaccine.

Calhoun County announced Friday it was opening a vaccination request form for essential workers included in Phase 1B of the rollout. The form includes check boxes to confirm people signing up work in jobs listed within that phase. The county noted that doses are still limited, and as a result, appointments are, too. It advised patience.

Kalamazoo County has also started running clinics, but said the small number of doses is keeping the rollout limited.

“I’ve got the facility, I’ve got the human resources, we’ve got the supplies, we’ve got the scheduling system and we have a lot of participants — over 20,000 people — that have pre-registered for this. What we really need is a ready and available supply of vaccine from the federal government,” county Health Officer Jim Rutherford told News 8 earlier this week.