During the weekly Berrien County COVID-19 update on Dec. 17, Spectrum Health Lakeland President Dr. Loren Hamel said the county received just under 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The first of those doses, he said, were administered Wednesday night.
"I was there with a line down the hall waiting to get vaccinated, folks with excitement and a few tears," Hamel said.
Hamel said the vaccine's arrival felt like a turning point, where healthcare workers can move from a "defensive" COVID strategy to an "offensive" one that's focused on prevention.
"If I was a singer, I might give you a strain of the 'Hallelujah' chorus," he said.
But, County Health Officer Nicki Britten stressed it will likely be April or May before the vaccine is available to the general public. For now, she says the county's hospitalization numbers are still higher than health officials would like to see.
She encouraged people to continue following safety protocols throughout the holidays and until the vaccine becomes widely available.
"Don't throw your masks out just yet," Britten said. "You're going to need them."
To keep up with Berrien County's vaccination status, Britten encouraged county residents to sign up for the health department's vaccine newsletter.
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