GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shipments began arriving at some Michigan hospitals Monday morning.
Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health told News 8 it received its first shipment around 9 a.m. and was the first in the state to administer the shot around 12:04 p.m. The health care system says five of its team members received their first dose of the vaccine Monday. They plan to “rapidly excel” vaccinations for staff starting Tuesday.
During a virtual briefing Monday afternoon, several Spectrum team members from various departments provided information on the initial shipment: Spectrum president and CEO Tina Freese Decker, Spectrum Health West Michigan President Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, infectious disease division chief Dr. Russell Lampen, pulmonary Dr. Marc McClelland and ICU nurse Yvette Kamana.
Spectrum said that it expects about 5,000 doses during the first phase of shipments. It received 975 Monday and expects to have all 5,000 before next week.
“We did not know when we would receive them (Monday) until late last night,” Elmouchi said. “Tuesday starts our true vaccine clinics and they’ll go throughout the week and weekend.”
An executive said the hospital system hoped to eventually vaccinate some 30,000 employees including not only doctors and nurses, but also rehabilitation specialists, lab technicians, people who help move patients and food service workers. They will not be required at this time but will be highly recommended.
Two health care workers who received the vaccine spoke during the briefing. Both of them said they had yet to feel any side effects and physically “feel fine.”
“So far I feel fine, not even a sore arm. It’s been about three-and-a-half hours,” said McClelland, who was the first person to get the vaccination in Michigan.
McClelland and Kamana, who also got her vaccination Monday, both described it as an emotional experience as history is being made as they continue to help combat the virus.
“Its an emotional thing more than anything. I feel unbelievably fortunate that this is a reality now. I’ve been saying for months when my patients ask me or my family asks me that I’ll happily roll up my sleeve and get the vaccine when it becomes available. Now, that opportunity is here,” McClelland.
Kamana reminded people to do their own research on the newly-released vaccine.
“This experience has been trying emotionally as a health care worker. You come to work not knowing what to expect. We’ve seen a lot of patients and we see a lot of patients who are critically ill, so I have to say it’s taken a toll on our emotions,” Kamana said. “It’s very exciting and I consider it a blessing to be one of the first people to get the vaccine because this means that we are getting somewhere.”
“What I can tell people out there is do your research, follow the science and hopefully more people get vaccinated and we can get a hold of this virus,” she continued.
McClelland and Kamana are scheduled to get their second dose in three weeks, Spectrum says. Anyone getting vaccinated will receive a follow-up dose 21 days after the initial shot.
Bronson Healthcare in southwest Michigan said its first shipment was not anticipated Monday but should arrive in the next few days. Its first set should include 1,950 doses. Upon arrival, health care workers will start getting the shots in 24 to 36 hours.
Mercy Health St. Mary’s expected 975 doses and March Health Muskegon 1,950 doses.
Holland Hospital expected to get a shipment this week, too, though it declined to provide the exact number of doses. It said the first shots would go to those treating COVID-19 patients.
The Michigan National Guard said it was creating 50 two- to three-person COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing teams and sending them to four hospitals around the state as early as Tuesday. A Monday release did not list the names of those hospitals. The Guard added it would create more teams as necessary and send them where ever they are needed.
The Guard has been helping with testing and food distribution around the state since the first virus cases were confirmed here started in March.
After the vaccine was approved for emergency use Friday, the plant in Portage where it is being manufactured shipped out the first doses Sunday morning. FedEx, one of two major shipping companies handling distribution, is flying shipments out of Gerald R. Ford International Airport to its global hub in Memphis to then be directed to the western part of the country.
UPS is handling distribution in the eastern part of the U.S., including Michigan.
It will be some time, possibly not until late spring, before everyone in Michigan has access to vaccines.