Berrien County to open vaccines Monday to residents 16-years and older with underlying conditions

BERRIEN COUNTY – COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Berrien County will be changing on Monday to include residents 16 years of age and older with underlying health conditions.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland provided an update via Facebook Live on the current COVID-19 status in the area, as well as news on vaccines and vaccine eligibility changes.

Health Officer Nicki Britten said the overall trend of decline in the number of new cases has continued. However, the new case numbers have risen to the higher end of the average range again, which may be cause for concern if it turns into a trend. The percent of test positivity has risen to just over 6-percent, where it had previously been 5 percent.
“Through the last weeks, we have seen an average of anywhere between 17 to 25 cases per day,” Britten said. “Over the last week or so, those cases have started to climb a little bit, but we use this term relatively. We are averaging 25 a day. We need time to see if it’s a trend or if it’s a blip in the graph.”

She said similar averages were happening in other parts of the country and reminded listeners it was still important to use precautionary measures.

“Maintain social distance, wear a mask, avoid close contact and being in large groups of people,” Britten said. “A lot of those things we have been doing the past year.”

Loren Hamel, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland, said the hospitals have remained steady on the lower end of patients being treated for COVID-19.

“We are watching around the state and other hospitals who were below 10 patients, and are now up over 40 and 50,” Hamel said. “It just underscores that we are ok for now, but we need to be careful about keeping ourselves and those we care about healthy.”
Britten said that 40 percent of residents 65 years old and older have been completely vaccinated, with 60 percent total having received at least one dose of the two dose vaccinations.

“We are continuing to progress through older adults,” Britten said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that on April 5, all Michiganders 16 years of age and older will be eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
Britten said that in Berrien County, they would open the eligibility on Monday, March 22, to all residents 16 years of age and older with underlying health conditions.

“We are going to continue to try to have a focus on our higher risk people,” Britten said.

She encouraged people to reach out to the BCHD to schedule their vaccine.

Hamel continued to encourage people to schedule a vaccine appointment through Spectrum Lakeland Health’s MiChart feature.

Meijer, Rite Aid, and more Walgreens may be carrying COVID-19 vaccines, according to Britten, as well as federally qualified health providers including InterCare and Niles Family Health Clinic.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine should be on its way to providers in Michigan, according to Hamel. The vaccine will join the existing vaccinations available from Pfizer and Moderna.

“It’s a little bit more like a flu shot,” Hamel said. “It’s a strand of DNA embedded in an adenovirus. An adenovirus is something that can’t replicate in your body.”

Hamel said instead, the body can begin building its immune defense against the COVID-19 virus.
“It gets you ready for battle,” Hamel said.

He said the vaccine has the advantage of being one dose and does not require the extreme refrigeration the other two existing vaccines require.

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