Educators line up to get COVID-19 vaccine at Ford Field

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit —  Educators and educational staff in Michigan lined up for appointments Monday at a football arena converted into a COVID-19 vaccine clinic by Meijer.

Meijer's two-day vaccination clinic at Ford Field is at capacity with 24 pharmacists and 2,600 appointments. Monday was the first day of administering the Moderna vaccine, and the same residents will return in four weeks for the second dose.

Theresa Healy, with husband John Healy, of Chesterfield Township complete check-in with Meijer pharmacist Andrew Hanna. Meijer hosted a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Ford Field exclusively for educators and education staff in Detroit, Michigan on March 1, 2021.

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Earlier last week, Meijer and the Michigan Education Special Services Association collaborated to identify and schedule appointments for education employees who still needed the vaccine.

"It came together pretty quickly with Meijer approaching us at the beginning of the year," said Jen McCollum, Detroit Lions senior communications director. "Teachers and school staff from six counties in southeast Michigan are here today to get their vaccine."

The Detroit News has reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is eyeing Ford Field for a mass vaccination site that could open in March, according to sources familiar with the plans.

McCollum declined to comment on such plans, saying, "What we can say is that we are making the facility available to help in any capacity that we can. We hosted on election night, we've hosted here today. So any way that we can be available during these unique and unusual times, we're making it happen."

Curtained off stations along the concourse of Ford Field for COVID-19 vaccinations for educators and education staff hosted by Meijer.
Meijer hosts a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Ford Field exclusively for educators and education staff in Detroit on March 1, 2021.

The stadium's concourse is being used for registration, to house 20 sheeted rooms where pharmacists administer the shots and as a waiting area for people to sit for 15 minutes after receiving the shot.

Emily Lamott and Rose Abbate are both second-grade teachers at Hillside Elementary in Farmington Hills. Both registered on Thursday and after being inoculated Monday morning, they said their nerves are finally at ease.

Lamott from Farmington Hills said she was on every waiting list in Oakland County and, compared with her colleagues, she felt like she was the last to get the shot.

"Our union president sent out the vaccine registration, and we jumped on it," said Lamott, 41. "I teach 11 students in-person for half the day and remote for the afternoon. My principal is substituting right now, because we have such a shortage, just so I could come to get the vaccine. We feel great."

Bernice Rutherford of Utica Schools gets her COVID-19 vaccine from Meijer pharmacist Maya Abdullah. 
Meijer hosts a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Ford Field exclusively for educators and education staff in Detroit, Michigan on March 1, 2021.

Bernice Rutherford, who works as an educational support staff in the Utica Community Schools, was surprised how easy it was to receive the vaccine in five minutes.

"My mother and I are the only ones in our family who have been able to get the vaccine and we really just want to keep ourselves, our family and our community safe," said Rutherford, 48, of Sterling Heights. "I wasn't sure when we were going to go back in person but this was soon enough. I'm more nervous about the side effects but feel much more secure.

"I've been laying low for the last year and I'm excited to be able to eat at a restaurant again."

Meijer's Kyle Metz, who oversees 44 vaccination clinics in the Detroit area, said in his seven years as a pharmacist, the vaccination clinic was the most unique event he's been a part of.

"For the last six weeks, we've been hosting large-scale vaccination clinics in our stores. This is our first one in partnership with the Detroit Lions and everything has been extremely, extremely great so far," Metz said. "We are starting to get more allocations through the federal government, so we expect more and more doses available to take care of more people as we go forward."

Teachers assistant at the Berkley School District Sylvia Boyd of Detroit and gets her COVID-19 vaccine from Meijer pharmacist Brittany Wilkinson.  Meijer hosted a vaccine clinic at Ford Field exclusively for educators and education staff in Detroit on March 1, 2021.

Meijer has administered 150,000 first and second doses with another 150,000 doses expected in the future for Michiganians.

While most, if not all the teachers at Ford Field were excited to get the vaccine, Metz said there is still some hesitancy.

"A lot of people are excited to get the pandemic over with and the best way to do that is to get vaccinated. So I think a lot of people are hesitant that it is so new, but it has been vetted, it is safe and effective," he said. 

Text "COVID" to 75049, visit meijer.com or call the local Meijer pharmacy to register when an appointment becomes available.

The state has administered 2.1 million of 2.6 million vaccines distributed by the federal government. As of Thursday, the state estimates that 16.7% of Michigan residents have received their first dose and 9.5% are fully vaccinated.

For subscribers: How to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in Michigan

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_