Berrien County creates waitlist to help with vaccine demand for teachers, those 65+

NOW: Berrien County creates waitlist to help with vaccine demand for teachers, those 65+

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday that all schools should offer an in-person option no later than March 1, she also called on the federal government to provide more vaccines because local health departments simply don’t have enough.

Meanwhile, the Berrien County Health Department continues to coordinate with local pharmacies and hospitals to finish vaccinating everyone in Phase 1A, but the responsibility of now adding Phase 1B to the list – including those ages 65 and up, first responders and K-12 school staff – is also falling on their shoulders.

“These phases are not going to be one phase then move onto the next with the first having been completed, the phases of vaccine prioritization are going to bleed into one another and there will be waves of those vaccinations starting even if the phase right before it hasn’t finished up,” said Gillian Conrad, MPH, Communications Manager at the Berrien County Health Department.

But despite the state’s announcement that vaccinations could begin for phase 1B Monday, the health department is just trying to make it work with the two shipments they’ve received so far.

“We have not received enough allocation of vaccines to vaccine all of the people who are interested in receiving it, we need to continue to receive shipments here for us to open up more appointment availability,” said Conrad.

This - leaving local educators wondering when they will actually be able to get the shot.

“They still have to get through Phase 1A before they get to us, Phase 1B, but we’re still looking at the timeframe of late January early February and they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to do the vaccine, whether they come to us or we’re going to them,” said David Ehlers, Superintendent of Coloma Community Schools.

Something that will be essential to continuing in-person learning and meeting the state’s goal of all districts having that option by March 1.

“Most of the issues that have closed schools were related to staff exposure, if you get a few kids who get COVID-19 or are exposed then you quarantine, but when you start losing staff that’s when we’ve had to consider closing the schools,” said Ehlers. “If we can get our staff vaccinated that gives us the ability to stay open.”

If you are an employer or individual in Berrien County who's part of phases 1A or 1B, you can fill out the health department's waitlist form here.

The Berrien County Health Department also continues to provide vaccine updates through their newsletter.

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