GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Vaccines started rolling out of labs and into arms a year ago this week. 

Dr. Marc McClelland was the first person in the state of Michigan to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. McClelland, a pulmonologist and critical care doctor with Spectrum Health, reflected on the last year in an opinion piece.

“It’s clearly been a very challenging year. I don’t have to tell anybody that, for all of us, especially in healthcare. The waves of COVID we’ve seen have been difficult. It’s obviously very heart-wrenching for all of us to take care of these patients who are so, so very ill. It’s been a year full of challenges for sure,” said McClelland.

McClelland said beyond the difficulty breathing people experience when battling COVID, healthcare professionals are also seeing strokes, blood clots, circulation issues and kidney issues that result in a need for dialysis.

“For many people, as we know, it’s an illness that they can kind of get through at home and ultimately do OK but for many more it can be fairly catastrophic and unfortunately many patients don’t make it at all,” said McClelland.

A year out, McClelland says time has proven how safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are.

“When these vaccines first came out, they were actually incredibly well studied. Very, very large clinical trials proved them to be very safe and very effective,” McClelland said. “Now we have a full year under our belts of wide-scale rollout of the vaccine and what we know about them is fortunately they are incredibly safe. Over 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated. Nearly 250 million have had at least one shot and are on their way.”

He encourages all eligible adults and children to get vaccinated.

“If people walked in my shoes, they would sign up and get vaccinated tomorrow,” he said. “If people see what we’re seeing on the front lines, at the end of the day, I think it’s a very important decision to get vaccinated.”