PORTAGE, Mich. — Bronson Healthcare opened its first COVID-19 vaccination clinics for people 65 and older on Saturday.
Sites are in Portage, Battle Creek, Mattawan and South Haven.
The clinic in Portage is just steps from the Pfizer manufacturing plant, which has produced millions of coronavirus vaccine doses since December.
“[When] the vaccines weren’t available, it was like, ‘Let’s just walk down to the plant and stick out our arm,’” said Ellen Kozar.
Kozar was one of 600 people who received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine at Bronson’s clinic in Portage. She says she misses her children and grandchildren, which is why she signed up for the shot.
“Like everyone else, I want to return to some normalcy,” said Kozar.
George Bridges says his wife moved to Georgia in July to take care of family, and he has only seen her once since then. He lists that and COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color as reasons for getting vaccinated.
“Get the vaccine,” said Bridges. “It’s a good thing, and it’s important to yourself, to your family and to the community.”
According to Bronson, it’s booked for the next week. However, health officials say after it receives each vaccine shipment, appointments will reopen. Clinics will operate on a varying schedule based on the supply and try to accommodate people the best they can with various days and times available.
Appointments last about 30 minutes, with most of that time spent after inoculation watching for any side effects.
“We start by screening them for any COVID symptoms,” said Melissa Madsen, director of practice operations. “Then we move them to a check-in area, which just lets the group know that they’ve arrived. Then they receive their COVID vaccine and go into our observation area. Two things happen in our observation area: one, they need to wait with us for at least 15 minutes, and during that 15 minutes, we have them complete the registration process so we can bill their insurance for the registration fee; however, there is no charge to our patients for the administration or the vaccine. The second thing that we have them do is make sure that they schedule their second dose.”
To sign up, people must have a MyChart through Bronson. Madsen says they are working to create an alternative to the online registration.
“Our goal is to make them as efficient as possible for our patients,” said Madsen. “We’ve had a lot of people show up with a book today because they thought it was going to take a long time - they’re not opening up their books.”
Bronson expects to vaccinate 4,000 people by next Thursday.
“It was a slight burning, but then it left, and it was quick and easy,” said Kozar. “It’s our future.”