GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (WOOD) — The West Michigan Vaccine Clinic at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids is preparing for a surge in signups following an announcement of expanded vaccine eligibility.
The state said Friday that people with preexisting conditions between the ages of 16 and 49 will become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines starting March 22. Everyone over 16 will become eligible starting April 5.
“We’re very excited, both about the reality that our vaccine allocation is increasing dramatically and we really think April and May and maybe early June are going to be huge months for us,” Kent County Health Department Administrative Health Officer Adam London said. “We’re expecting that the federal government is going to make even more vaccine available very quickly. The pharmaceutical companies are doing a great job in increasing production.”
The state announcement came one day after President Joe Biden asked states to make all adults eligible for vaccines by May 1 and allow small gatherings by July 4.
The county said the expansion of vaccine eligibility couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We are seeing, statewide, an increase in cases, hospitalizations, an increase in (COVID-19 patients in) ICUs and (the average) positivity rate, so there is a possibility for a spring resurgence. We know the variants are out there,” London said.
Health care workers at the clinic at DeVos Place say they have been preparing for this moment for months.
“We see the end in sight,” Chad Tuttle, Spectrum Health West Michigan vice president of hospital operations, said “We just need to make sure we don’t see increase.”
Tuttle said the vaccine clinic broke a state record Thursday when workers inoculated more than 8,000 people in one day. The county says the clinic is more than prepared to inoculate as many as 20,000 people in a day, working 14 hours per day.
“We’re ready, we just need the vaccine and we can make it happen quickly for our community,” London said.
The county says in order to ensure equity, West Michigan health care systems will also continue administering vaccines at smaller clinics throughout the area. They say they just need the doses.
The county is asking people to begin signing up for vaccine appointments now to ensure a smooth process in April. They will still prioritize people who were included in earlier phases who are still awaiting their shots.
“We ask people to complete the registration accurately and when they do that, we will know what category they fall in to. When we schedule, we do invite people from each category for each clinic but we do (give priority) to those higher-risk category,” Tuttle said.
To sign up for a vaccine appointment, go to VaccinateWestMI.com. The Kent County Health Department says it is best to sign up with only one vaccine clinic.