Meijer’s only location in Ypsilanti conducted a vaccine clinic for eligible Michigan residents on Tuesday in an effort to achieve the state’s 70% immunization goal by the end of 2021. Meijer partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Hope Clinic, United Way and local religious leaders.
This clinic is one out of the more than 950 that Meijer plans to operate this week across their 256 locations across the Midwest states. Since the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program recognized Meijer as a partner to help facilitate vaccine rollout in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana in January, Meijer has administered 500,000 vaccination doses at 3,000 different clinics. Beginning immediately, Meijer will take on this role in Wisconsin, Illinois and Kentucky as well, the retailer announced on Monday.
“Our stores and pharmacies continue to play an integral role in supporting their communities across the Midwest during this challenging time,” Rick Keyes, Meijer President and CEO, said in a press release.
Michigan residents, primarily from Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, expressed excitement and gratitude for the clinic to The Michigan Daily. Linda Francis and her husband were among the many eager patients who received the vaccine today. Francis said though it took awhile for her to hear about receiving a dose after registering, the process at the clinic was overall easy and efficient.
“The line moved fast; we signed in,” Francis said. “The shot didn’t hurt. Everything went really well.”
In addition to appreciating the clinic’s organization, many visitors said they felt relieved to be receiving their first dose. Whether it be the possibility of socializing again or returning to work, people at the clinic said the vaccine gives them hope that normal daily life can resume in the future.
Carolina Alves and her family said getting the vaccine was an emotional experience. During the fifteen-minute wait period following injection, Alves told The Daily what receiving the vaccination meant to her.
“On Thursday, my father died (of COVID-19) in Brazil,” Alves said. “And now, the father of my husband is in the hospital in Brazil. This is very emotional for me and very good. It’s a special day.”
According to the Michigan state website, just about one-third of Michigan’s population has been vaccinated. In Washtenaw County, approximately 38% of the population is fully vaccinated. But clinic organizers expressed concerns that this number does not necessarily include some of the more vulnerable demographics.
Ken Hayward, vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield in Michigan, helped facilitate the partnership with Meijer to set up the clinic. Using Social Vulnerability Index scores, Hayward told The Daily that Blue Cross Blue Shield identified Ypsilanti as one of Michigan’s communities that deserved priority in vaccination rollout. SVI is a method of quantifying the potential negative health effects caused by external stressors in particular communities.
Research shows that COVID-19 disproportionately affects communities of color, particularly Black communities. Recently Washtenaw County was allocated an additional 2,500 doses to administer to more vulnerable areas of the county, particularly Black and Latinx communities.
Hayward said the first step to getting the state to its immunization goal is to target communities that are the most vulnerable according to the index.
“We think getting into these communities is a great step towards getting the word out that these immunizations are safe, they’re effective and that people should go and get them,” Hayward said.
M. Douglas Campbell, executive director of Hope Clinic, was present at the clinic on Tuesday. Like Hayward, Campbell said he was elated about the partnership and pleased with the state’s vaccination rollout so far.
“They’ve (the Michigan state government) been doing a phenomenal job actually, in terms of their vaccination clinics, and hospital systems have been fantastic,” Campbell said. “So we’re really specifically trying to care for those who don’t traditionally have access to those clinics. From a product perspective, we’re really trying to bridge that gap and provide opportunities within our areas.”
Mona Charara is a pharmacist for Meijer Pharmacy and is helping lead the vaccination charge in Detroit and other areas in Michigan. Charara offered some advice for anyone unsure about which of the three vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson —is the best to receive.
“If you have any opportunity to get any of the three, please just take that opportunity,” Charara said. “The best shot is the one you get, so I wouldn’t be too picky. Any shot is a shot that would keep you safe and protected.”
To register for the vaccine, officials encourage those interested to visit the Meijer website to find available appointments. In Michigan, all adults above the age of 16 will be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning on April 5.
Iris Proctor, director of integrated services at Hope Clinic, said the benefits substantially outweigh the costs for those who may be a bit hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I might have symptoms after my vaccination, but symptoms are nothing compared to actually contracting COVID and the loss of life,” Proctor said. “I say do it. Let’s show everybody, we live. We live and we love, and our community is well and it stays healthy. Please, please get the vaccine. It’s awesome.”
Daily Staff Reporter Lillian Gooding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.