Sparrow & MSU, front-line looks at vaccine distribution

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Illustration by Chrystel Lopez

A colorful needle against a gray background depicting coronavirus molecules captures how vaccines are the light at the end of the “COVID-19 tunnel”.

As of March 22, Sparrow Hospital widened its vaccination criteria to those who are ages 50 and up, as well as people with medical conditions who are ages 16 and up and their caregiver family members and guardians.

“It’s been an extremely busy and hectic time, but it’s been a really fun assignment,” said Sparrow Laboratories Manager Elizabeth Reust. “People are excited to get the vaccine, and we’re super pleased to be able to provide it to them.”

Following Ingham County’s March 15 COVID-19 update, we can see that COVID cases and hospitalizations are jumping up and down weekly, with an overall decline.

The drive-thru at Sparrow began as a COVID-testing facility (previously a Sears Auto Center), in January of this year and morphed into a place for rapid-vaccination.

This model allows for up to 1,000 vaccinations a day. said that there have even been days where over a thousand patients have been vaccinated. 

Graph courtesy of MI Safe Start Map

In fact, on a day where they administered 1,000 vaccines, 500 COVID-19 tests were given. Ruest said many of the people getting tested are doing so as a precaution.

“It’s an exciting time to see a decline in the amount of sickness and number of positive patients in the community,” Reust said. “Every person that we vaccinate is one more person toward herd immunity.”

In this interview clip, Reust explains why vaccinations can be so impactful for community members.

MSU physician researches COVID

Dr. Bengt Arnetz, an MSU professor in Family and Preventive Medicine and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine, was recently vaccinated.

Chrystel Lopez

Doctor Arnetz speaks on the importance of vaccinations during a Zoom interview.

Arnetz is also working on research about post-COVID syndrome and its impact on hospital personnel. He is also working on another study to help people gain trust in the vaccination process.

“The hardest hit communities have rumors spread that the vaccine isn’t safe, unfortunately,” he said. “But, trust is lowered for real reasons. I think this has to be seen in a much larger framework — the history of abuse and social injustice that people of color have been exposed to by the healthcare system.”

However, there are many grassroots community organizations and healthcare organizations, such as Sparrow Forward, and the Cristo Rey Community Center, reaching out to communities to build trust.

“Around 30% of people are hesitant,” Arnetz said. “I think people need to understand that [vaccinations] aren’t just to protect themselves, it’s also to protect others.”

Sophi Epstein, a senior at MSU and a community outreach specialist at Gateway Youth Services, received her vaccine a few weeks ago because of her work with homeless and housing insecure adults. 

“I feel a lot better after having the vaccine,” Epstein said. “That sense of security is really nice. It helps eliminate some of that guilt to know that you are not putting others at risk. For me, that is the biggest payoff.”