With DeVos Place clinic opening eligibility, more volunteers ‘critical’

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The West Michigan Vaccine Clinic in downtown Grand Rapids is looking to recruit several thousand volunteers in the coming weeks.

Spectrum Health announced Tuesday that the clinic would be doing away with the state’s phasing plan and opening eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines for everyone over the age of 16.

“I’m feeling good, good to make progress toward the whole COVID-19 pandemic and be a part of making it better,” 18-year-old Jada Riley said as she waited for her vaccine appointment.

Spectrum says within two hours of making the announcement, all the available appointment slots were gone.

“I just found out yesterday … so we jumped on it because we were really excited,” 20-year-old Heleyna Tucker said after getting her COVID-19 shot Wednesday.

The clinic at Devos Place saw hordes of people in and out Wednesday. The staff say they were able to inoculate about 6,080 people.

“My wife is a physical therapist, so she has hers. My brother’s a teacher, so he has his. I’m kind of actually one of the last in my family,” said 29-year-old Tim Forbes, who says he signed up for an appointment as soon as he heard Spectrum’s announcement.

Many told News 8 crews the shot is helping to build excitement for what the future may hold.

“I can see my family and not be worried. I can compete in sports and not be worried,” college student Julie Tinperman said after getting her vaccine.

As the clinic prepares for an influx of appointments, they say volunteers will be critical.

“I do it because I consider it a gospel duty and also a patriotic duty,” volunteer Patrick Burke said.

Burke, who is a retiree, says he signed up to volunteer at the clinic when it first opened. He says as the weeks have passed, the clinic has gone from having so many volunteers that he barely got any hours to him being needed five days a week.

“We’ve got vaccines, we’ve got the space, but we’re real short on the labor,” Burke said.

Spectrum is now asking for the community’s help.

“Some volunteers are coming back and they’re pulling multiple shifts,” Spectrum Health COO Brian Brasser said.

Brasser says they started with about 4,000 people signed up to volunteer. They’re now looking to grow that pool of people and recruit several thousand more volunteers.

“Our non-clinical volunteers are assigned things like wayfinding, they help with the distribution of supplies, directional assistance, performing temperature checks,” Brasser said.

Spectrum says they use about 125 to 150 volunteers each day. They say volunteers are essential to getting Michiganders inoculated faster.

“Our goal would be to run between 100,000 and 120,000 vaccines (per week) across our locations, the bulk of that here (at Devos Place), so the volunteers’ effort will be absolutely critical to make that a reality,” Brasser said.

Brasser says Spectrum can process up to 600 volunteer applications per week. They say there is an orientation required for every volunteer.

Spectrum also says there are safety protocols in place inside the clinic to keep volunteers safe including daily symptom questionnaires, temperature checks and mandatory masking.

To sign up to volunteer, head to the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic website or the Kent County Health Department Facebook page.

Spectrum says once they get more volunteers and vaccine doses, they will make more vaccine appointments available online.

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