A year in COVID: Vaccinations

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.--The news of the very first case of COVID-19 in the United States sent shockwaves throughout the country.

"I think it’s fair to say when I heard about the very first case of the coronavirus. I never expected the sort of pandemic that we’re seeing now,” St. Joseph County Health Officer Bob Einterz said.

“It was kind of like this game where every day we were watching, watching it slowly creep over to the west side of the state and just waiting for it to hit us,” Van Buren/Cass County District Health Officer Danielle Persky said.

And then concerns when the virus hit home, showing its face in our communities.

“We really all just thought it was going to be a seasonal thing,” Persky said.

As cases, illness and death tolls started to skyrocket, a quick and sudden urgency in trying to cure the virus and fix the pandemic-mess set in with doctors and scientists working around the clock to trial, test and get COVID vaccines shipped out and into arms.

"It’s been truly miraculous. The development of the vaccine, the production of the vaccine, the administration of the vaccine here. I think it’s been about as close to a miracle as you could expect,” Einterz said.

On December 17th, the very first shipment of the 2-shot Pfizer vaccine arrived in St, Joseph county to give to frontline healthcare workers.

As time went on, the two-shot Moderna vaccine was introduced, and just within the last week the one-and-done Johnson and Johnson vaccine has too. All the while, vaccine shipments expanded and so did eligibility.

“We started with age eligibility here and continue with age eligibility,” Einterz said.

In the beginning stages, St. Joseph County was only able to vaccinate a few hundred Hoosiers a week, but since, has bumped up majorly, inoculating over 1,000 daily.

“It means we’re on track to get back to normal really very soon here I think,” Einterz said.

And growth, is only anticipated to go up from here!

“I expect age eligible to continue. I would fully anticipate that we will move to the 40 and over individuals within the next week or two, in addition broaden the eligibility for medical conditions,” Einterz said. “With that said, we are really doing a wonderful job here in this County vaccination the most vulnerable, the most at risk.”

Over the state line in Cass and Van Buren counties in Michigan, the progress hasn’t been so smooth.

“For us the biggest hurdles continue to be the slow drop of vaccine. When you’re getting such a low amount and then the ability to order is taken away from you, and you’re just given an allotment,” Persky said.

However, they’re now beginning to tear down those vaccine barriers.

“It feels like we are finally getting our footing and getting enough supply to really begin processes forward in a consistent fashion,” Persky said.

Right now, groups who are eligible to be vaccinated statewide in Michigan include healthcare workers, first responders, childcare and school staff, long term care workers and residents, workers in food and agricultural processing, and residents 65 and older.

But not all those who are eligible across the state have been able to get vaccinated in Cass and Van Buren counties.

“We are slowly beginning to open it to food and ag, food and ag workers alongside partnership with our federally qualified health center who will help take care of that with us. Critical manufacturing, that will also include US Postal service workers and grocery workers,” Persky said.

Initially, only 400 to 500 doses were being given to those eligible a week, but now, up to 1,500 Michiganders in between the two counties are getting vaccinated.

Both health officials, believe it won't be long until the vaccines are offered to the general public.

“I would bet... I would really bet that by May, early June we will be ready for the general public, if not sooner honestly,” Persky said.

“I would hope by mid-April, or certainly by mid-May who wants to get a vaccine will be able to get a vaccine...perhaps even sooner than that,” Einterz said.

One year of living in a pandemic, making difficult decisions and adjustments to try and slow the spread of the virus. 365 days of trying to stay strong and remain hopeful for a healthier, safer nation to come.

“We should continue to be hopeful; we should continue to be on guard. This epidemic is far from over in some respects, we’re close, but we’re not there yet,” Einterz said.

“It’s been draining on everyone, but if we can keep our eye on this whole hopeful pride and keep looking at the numbers going down and the vaccines going up, and sort of remain steadfast in the final hour just pushing to the finish line, I think we’ll find ourselves in a really good position here soon,” Persky said.

If you are from Indiana and are eligible to get vaccinated, you can click here for more information and register.

If you are from Michigan and are eligible to get vaccinated, you can click here for more information and register.

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