NILES, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard helped facilitate second-dose COVID-19 vaccinations of school employees on March 12.
"We have seven school districts participating in today's event," said Tracy Hertsel, director of student support services and COVID director for Niles Community Schools. "This is a second dose – everyone who was in our first clinic four weeks ago will be here today.
"We're vaccinating school staff, more than just teachers – it's administrators, bus drivers, food service, and any employee from the school districts," he said.
The Michigan National Guard and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have been working with local health officials to make sure vaccines are available throughout the state.
"Our role is supporting local health departments in inoculations and administration at vaccination events," said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Barry Keely, 110th Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. "We have 15 Michigan Army and Air National Guard members to support this event.
"We are utilizing the Guard's medical and administrative assets where requested to ensure success in the distribution of the vaccine," he said.
Throughout the pandemic, school districts have faced the dual challenge of educating students while keeping everyone safe.
"We have a plan to try to keep our teachers in the classroom and the vaccination is a big part of that," Hertsel said. "The employees have been feeling very positive about this opportunity in a negative time as it's been a tough year for them. This is a feather in their cap to making progress."
"I am excited to get the second vaccine," said Michelle McHale, a social worker with Niles Community Schools. "I have not seen family since last summer and am planning on visiting during spring break."
McHale said she appreciated the health department and the National Guard, as well as Niles Community Schools "for opening up their facility to other school districts and hosting this event."