“When we take care of other people that brings the community together”

FLINT, Michigan -- The Genesee County Health Department, Hurley Medical Center, the Genesee County Sheriff Department, and Patriot Ambulance partnered to administer 500 COVID-19 vaccines to members of the public meeting criteria in groups 1A and 1B on January 13 at Flint Northwestern High School.


“We could not do this without these different community partners stepping up,” Dr. Pamela Hackert, director of the Genesee County Health Department, said as she oversaw the first mass vaccination clinic in Flint.


Community residents who met the criteria to obtain the vaccine were able to register online or call the Health Department to schedule an appointment. The goal of the day was to administer 500 vaccines and rule out any possible kinks in the process of distribution to the community.


”We all know throughout the state we have to do mass vaccination clinics and we have to be able to identify how best to do it and reach different parts of the community,” said Hackert.


Hurley Medical Center holds the Pfizer vaccines in lab deep freezers at approximately -80 to -70 degrees Celsius. The morning of distribution, trained health department nurses go to Hurley to get the vaccines and monitor their integrity during transportation to the clinic.


“The vaccines are unusually fragile because they have no preservatives in them and (that) is another reason why they are considered very safe,” Hackert said.


Deputies from the Sheriff’s Department were able to provide traffic control and direct patients to different stations where they filled out paperwork, verified identification, and received the vaccine.


Once patients were vaccinated, cars were directed to a waiting area. Vaccinated patients were required to be observed for 15 minutes after the vaccine with a paramedic-deputy on standby with an ambulance ready if necessary. No emergency interventions were given or required for any of the 500 vaccinated.


Sheriff Chris Swanson arrived at the vaccine clinic and encouraged staff and community members.


“I am super fired up because this has been a vision of mine to be part of the vaccines rolling out,” Swanson said. “We have a new county board chair Mike Young, a new health director Dr. Hackert, and the three of us were able to collaborate together and put this into action within one week of them taking offices.”


Health department staff worked tirelessly inside of the Northwestern gym, counting and preparing the vaccines. Jacob Fitzpatrick, one of the nurses working at the vaccination clinic said, “I am the guy running around making sure everything is right, everything is flowing correctly, making sure people have what they need and making sure patients are being taken care of and the staff is as well.”


Fitzpatrick chose public health as his specialty and was incredibly enthusiastic about the clinic. “I think it's absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It's cool to see what you learn in public health come to life so quickly.”


Swanson smiled as he walked in between cars, encouraging community members and health department employees.


“I see smiles even in the middle of this pandemic,” Swanson said. “I still see people that know we are going to combat this and it’s going to work. It [COVID-19] is not a death sentence to a community anymore. We are going to thrive and this is going to make us stronger people because we have come together, certainly in this nation, during a time where we need unity more than ever. When we take care of other people that brings the community together. This is government unity in action.”

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Read more articles by Jenifer Veloso.