DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 10: A medical worker administers a Flu vaccination during a free flu clinic vaccination event held by Meijer at Comerica Park on November 10, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. With Covid-19 cases skyrocketing around the US medical professionals fear that a bad flu season will only make things worse and further fill hospitals and deplete medical supplies around the nation. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 10: A medical worker administers a Flu vaccination during a free flu clinic vaccination event held by Meijer at Comerica Park on November 10, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. With Covid-19 cases skyrocketing around the US medical professionals fear that a bad flu season will only make things worse and further fill hospitals and deplete medical supplies around the nation. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

Convention centers from coast to coast, both in Michigan and nationwide, are preparing to vaccinate as many as 20,000 people a day.

NOVI, Mich.—Oakland County residents recently gathered at the Suburban Collection Showcase for an unique event. A mass vaccination site was set up for clinic hours to administer the coronavirus vaccine. 

“My brother just called and said he took his wife to the hospital. It has hit home. My wife is a breast cancer survivor,” James Lytle, head of security at Seaholm HIgh School with Birmingham Public Schools, told the Detroit News. “I just want to be safe for you. I want myself to be protected and I want all my children and my school to be protected.”

On Michigan’s other coast, Spectrum and Mercy Health, two major hospital systems in west Michigan, are opening a mass vaccination center in downtown Grand Rapids, with the potential capacity to vaccinate 20,000 people per day.

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While current vaccine shortages prevent such large-scale operations at the moment, west Michigan is ready to make full use of increases in supply. Using the DeVos Place convention center as a staging area for vaccinations will allow for rapid deployment across the region, Kent County Health Department Director Dr. Adam London told MiBiz.

“We know that we cannot get through this without a vaccination program that is sufficiently scaled to move vaccines as quickly as possible,” London said. “We want our region to achieve population immunity as fast as possible.”

Kent County residents who meet current vaccine eligibility requirements can call 833-755-0696 to schedule an appointment.

The Nation Prepares for Mass Vaccination

States across the country are finally opening mass vaccination sites, with the hope of inoculating thousands of people a day. 

Since the first vaccine was approved for use in the United States in December, the country’s vaccination effort has fallen short of official goals. As production of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines ramps up and more doses become available to the public, mass vaccination sites aim to help speed up allocation.

Vaccination and reaching herd immunity are both key for life to return pre-pandemic normalcy. 

“There’s nothing more important than that,” Dr. Dara Kass, who is an associate professor of emergency medicine, told COURIER, The ‘Gander’s sister publication. “There are no football games that are more important than that, there are no baseball games that are more important than that. We need to very much pause on anything. There’s only a few specific places that can be used for this, and they should be. We should be focusing on mass vaccination.”

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Oregon is setting up multiple mass vaccination sites across the state, and the first to get set-up in the Portland area is at the Oregon Convention Center. Officials hope the site will be able to vaccinate upwards of 7,500 people a day when there are more doses. 

The convention center site will be open seven days a week, by appointment only for individuals who fall into the vaccine phases. 

The area could soon have an additional vaccination site in one of the Portland International Airport parking lots.This site has the added benefit of being outdoors, which provides better ventilation than an indoor location. Officials have discouraged gathering indoors as COVID-19 spreads more easily in confined spaces. 

Public health officials running the convention center site have kept these guidelines in mind. They have designed the mass vaccination site with space for social distancing and believe the site will be safe. 

New Jersey officials are opening six mass vaccination sites in convention centers, malls, and entertainment complexes. Each site will have the capacity to vaccinate thousands of people once the federal government is able to allocate more doses. 

“In rural areas, you can do fairgrounds, whereas in urban areas you can do them at stadiums. But no matter what, the federal government needs to empower the local communities to do this, to fund it and support it,” Dr. Kass said. 

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On his first day in office, President Joe Biden began work to answer that call. Up to 100 sites run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could be up and running within the next month.The plans are designed to “provide federal support to existing or new community vaccination centers and mobile clinics across the country,” according to documents originally obtained by the Washington Post. 

The move significantly increases the role of the federal government and agencies in the vaccination effort. Previously, federal officials had left much of the planning and financing up to the state with little to no high level guidance, which has created an uneven patchwork of vaccine distribution. 

The additional help will also be integral to getting vaccines to rural areas. 

“[For rural areas] it might be things like getting buses to vaccination centers, it may be things like investing in a large scale, taking all available [resources] whether its high school gymnasiums, fairgrounds, and doing pop up centers there,” Dr. Kass said. 
Experts predict vaccine supply will remain limited until production ramps up. Officials hope to have enough vaccines to inoculate anyone who wants a dose by early-to-mid summer.