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Workers at 2 Michigan hospitals first to get virus vaccine

December 14, 2020 GMT

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Frontline health care workers at two Michigan hospitals have become the first in the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pulmonary and critical care physician Marc McClelland, 46, was among those receiving vaccinations Monday at Spectrum Health Butterworth in Grand Rapids.

Vaccinations also were carried out at Michigan Medical in Ann Arbor. They came as the state reported 7,205 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 90 deaths Sunday and Monday.

Health care workers across the country began receiving the vaccine Monday — marking the start of the biggest vaccination campaign in American history. About 20 million people could be immunized by the end of December if a second vaccine is authorized soon.

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The vaccine distributed Monday is produced by Michigan-based Pfizer and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Hopefully, this vaccine will bring cause for hope and optimism,” McClelland told reporters. “It’s been very well scrutinized. The FDA has recommended it is safe. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

Additional Michigan hospitals are expected to begin vaccinating health care staff later this week, according to the state.

Nearly 438,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Michigan since the start of the pandemic. Total deaths have topped 10,700.

“The arrival of this vaccine in Michigan signals that the end of this pandemic is near,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“However, it will take several months before we are able to have enough vaccine to widely distribute it to the general population,” she added. “Until then, and even for individuals who receive the vaccine, we should all be doing our part to slow the spread of this virus by wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, and washing hands.”

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 300,000 Monday.

“Our frontline essential hospital workers have gone above and beyond to save lives — including stepping up today to receive vaccines.” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a release.

Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center, received an initial shipment Monday of 1,950 doses of the vaccine.

Johnnie Peoples, a registered nurse with Survival Flight, was the first of five Michigan Medicine employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Survival Flight is Michigan Medicine’s critical care transport program.

The medical center expects to vaccinate about 40 employees starting Tuesday.

“Over the many debilitating months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all have longed for the initiation of an effective vaccination program,” said Marschall S. Runge, Michigan Medicine chief executive.

Michigan’s National Guard will help with statewide vaccine distribution. It is expected to staff vaccination and testing teams, each comprised of a uniformed medical technician and one or two administrative support personnel.

“For some locations that will mean directly administering the vaccine to their staff,” said Col. Ravindra Wagh, joint operations officer. “We will also provide administrative support when needed, freeing up critical front-line hospital employees and allowing them to focus on the ongoing battle against COVID-19.”