Berrien County educators receive second COVID-19 vaccine

NILES – “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang rang through the decorated hallway school staff and educators used to exit Niles High School on Friday after receiving their second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

On Friday afternoon, a year to the day when school staff learned schools across the state would be closing due to COVID-19, educators from seven Berrien County school systems left fully vaccinated.

Dan Applegate, superintendent of Niles Community Schools, said the event was well-organized.

“We have had a lot of support,” Applegate said. “The schools in north [Berrien] county were getting their shots at the Berrien County Health Department [location], so we said ‘we’ll make it happen for south county.’”

According to the BCHD, 904 vaccines were distributed at the mass clinic.

“We are getting really good at doing these,” said BCHD Communications Manager Gillian Conrad. “Doing a clinic that is 900 people feels like a walk in the park to us now. We have gotten the logistics and operations down to a well-timed out science. We have a phenomenal staff that understand the timing.”

As educators arrived at the school, they were checked in by health department workers in the parking lot. Once they were signaled to enter the school, they were ushered into the gymnasium.

The gymnasium floor was covered in tarps, with nurses and National Guard members manning vaccine administration tables, spaced out at the entry-way of the gym.

“We request National Guard assistance mostly for their vaccinators,” Conrad said. “We don’t have enough nurses on our staff to provide vaccines at that level.”
The Michigan National Guard is available to all health departments across the state for these clinics.

Allison Duffield-Harris, RN, a public health nurse with the BCHD, was one of the nurses administering the Moderna vaccine.

“This is the second dose, so it goes a lot quicker,” Duffield-Harris said.

She said the clinic was scheduled to deliver doses of vaccine between 1 and 8 p.m. that day.

Megan Lenz, an educator from Berrien Springs Community Schools, was in good spirits as she received her second dose.

After receiving their shots, educators moved to the second half of gym to sit in folding chairs for 15 minutes while volunteers checked in with them to make sure they were not experiencing any adverse symptoms.

Once educators were cleared to leave, they exited through doors into a hallway decorated with messages from students, a balloon archway, and a table with a snack and bottles of water to take with them.

A wall poster said “We’re all in this together” and thanked the staffs from River Valley School District, Eau Claire Area School District, Buchanan Community Schools, Niles Community Schools, New Buffalo Area Schools, Brandywine Community Schools and Berrien Springs Public Schools.

“We are really happy to get [educators] fully vaccinated,” Conrad said. “It’s absolutely cause for celebration.”

Applegate said the hallway was a way to celebrate rounding the corner on being vaccinated on the anniversary of schools being closed down due to COVID-19 arriving in the state.

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