Berrien County considering turning to smaller, walk-in vaccine clinics

NOW: Berrien County considering turning to smaller, walk-in vaccine clinics

NILES, Mich. -- Health officials in Berrien County are considering ending mass vaccination clinics and instead focusing on smaller, community outreach.

The hope is this will increase vaccine numbers in the county.

While providers like Spectrum Health Lakeland and the Berrien County Health Department have had a 100 percent attendance rate at clinics, that’s started to dip recently, with more shots available than the amount of people making appointments. 

“We were able to fill clinics all the way up until last Thursday, we pride ourselves on never wasting vaccine but we do have some leftover,” said Keri Pawielski, Manager of Outpatient Rehab at Spectrum Health Lakeland.

Officials say we’ve reached a new phase in the vaccine rollout – working to get the interest and trust of the younger, less vulnerable population. 

In the past few weeks, Lakeland and the health department say they haven’t filled all appointment slots at mass clinics.

But, part of that could be due to the variety of providers people can now choose from. 

“Not just at the health department and hospital, but pretty much every area pharmacy, so folks are able to get an appointment in a variety of locations,” said Gillian Conrad, MPH, Communications Manager at the Berrien County Health Department.

While the increased options certainly help with accessibility, they’re are also turning their focus to bringing the vaccine into communities, hosting smaller clinics throughout the county and even now allowing walk-ins. 

“We’re going to need to reach those who may still be on the fence, maybe didn’t feel they should get the vaccine first or still have questions that need to be answered,” said Conrad.

With 32 percent of Berrien County’s 16+ population fully immunized, they’re also sending a reminder of how much the vaccine can help with returning to normal life. 

“The CDC has now said they can gather without a mask, they don’t have to quarantine if they’ve been around somebody with COVID-19, which I think is important especially for high school kids if they’re exposed at school and then out for 10 days, if they were vaccinated, they wouldn’t have to experience quarantine,” said Pawielski.

Lakeland is hosting its first Moderna clinic with walk-in availability Tuesday at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor from 9 to 4.

On May 5th, a Pfizer clinic at Watervliet High School will accept walk-ins from noon to 3.

A reminder, 16 and 17-year-olds are only eligible for Pfizer right now and will need a guardian present during their shot.

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