Edwardsburg Fire Department hosts first COVID-19 vaccine clinic

EDWARDSBURG — This week, the Edwardsburg Fire Department looked different than normal. Instead of housing bright red firetrucks, the space inside the facility was filled with red folding chairs, each spaced out 6 feet apart from one another. The usual firefighters ready at a moment’s notice to attend to a burning vehicle or building were replaced with a different kind of first responder, attending to a different emergency — health care workers aiming to help residents fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Wednesday, the Edwardsburg Fire Department, 69910 M-62, was host to its first COVID-19 vaccination clinic facilitated by the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department. Over the course of the day-long event, roughly 500 Cass County residents received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those vaccinated, 75 percent were 65 years of age or older. The remaining 25 percent were categorized in Michigan’s 1B vaccination group, including essential workers, healthcare personnel, school staff and teachers, and more.

“Today is going fantastic,” said Jennifer Zordan, director of emergency planning for the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department. “As you can see, the way we are scheduling appointments is efficient and works for us.”

The clinic at the fire department was one of two clinics hosted in Cass County Wednesday. A second clinic was hosted at Southwestern Michigan College’s Dowagiac campus, which will again be host to a vaccine clinic on Friday. According to Zordan, the clinics are a sign that vaccine distribution is picking up in Cass County.

In December and January, the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department was operating under a severe vaccine shortage, resulting in a slow rollout. Though the county is still listed as having a “low” vaccine coverage by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, a recent priority designation by the state is helping the health department get more vaccines into Cass County residents’ arms.

“We are getting more vaccine each week,” Zordan said. “We are distributing about 1,000 doses a week, and 1,500 doses are going to be distributed this week in Cass County alone. We are getting much more vaccine than we were getting in the past.”

Currently, more than 20,000 residents have signed up for the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department’s vaccine waitlist. Of those on the list, Zordan estimated that 5,000 were individuals 65 and older and that the health department had delivered vaccines to roughly 80 percent of that population.

“I’m very optimistic that we are getting the vaccine to the highest-risk people,” Zordan said. “Although we are optimistic that we are going to continue to go at this rate, it all depends on vaccine manufacturing and distribution.”

Though manufacturing and state distribution is out of the health department’s hands, Zordan said continued vaccine distribution would continue to be a community effort, as the department is always looking for volunteers and large spaces in which to host clinics.

“I would ask that people continue to be patient as we move forward,” Zordan said. “We are doing the best we can to get vaccines into arms as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

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