JACKSON, Mich. — Christopher Dragan walked into the MLK Center where for the past several months hundreds of people had come there each Thursday to get their COVID vaccination.
“I believe it’s kind of my civic duty to get the vaccine to help out everybody,” said Dragan, who is 42 and lives in Jackson.
He was one of only five people who came to the King Center on Thursday, a big drop-off from its peak after the south side location transformed into a vaccination clinic back in early March.
“We’ve kind of seen a bit of decline,” King Center Director Antonio Parker said. “We were doing relatively close to 120 every Thursday and now we’ve dropped to 15 or 20 a day.”
“I think you’ve gotten to the vast majority of people that want to get vaccinated and now we have our effort to be spent on really trying to get those people that are on the fence that really don’t know if they want it but want it. We’ve spent a lot of time getting people over that threshold of getting those ones that really want to get vaccinated but not sure yet,” Parker said.
The city of Jackson and Henry Ford Allegiance Health put the clinic there because it's a largely minority community. Parker believes that's been a success. The data backs him up.
Henry Ford Allegiance Health showed there have been 585 first doses and 527 second doses given at the King Center when they first started administering those shots. Of those, 89 percent were Jackson County residents. 54.6 percent were black.
Data from the state of Michigan shows 51 percent of residents have received an initial dose of the vaccine with 46.8 percent fully vaccinated.
Henry Ford Allegiance Health Vice President for Population Health Dr. Courtland Keteyian says “to do over a thousand people there has been very big positive for us,” but he still would like to see more shots in arms there and in Jackson County overall.
“Our intention is to be there as long as there is demand,” Keteyian said. “So, right now we will be there at least a month from now because we are there today. There is definitely still hesitancy in the community. I still go and speak with groups and try to answer people’s questions.”
Parker says that there is a navigator at the King Center to help people who have questions about the vaccine.
“There is a couple of Henry Ford representatives that works in the front with us. They are the people that got to help them get over the bridge. They’re there to answer any questions about the vaccine. What’s in it. What goes on. They help them basically lead them to the gym to get them vaccinated here,” Parker said.
Keteyian says misinformation has played a big role in people’s hesitancy to get the vaccine. The most common reasons for not getting the COVID vaccine comes from people who have contracted the virus already.
“That’s a very concerning mindset. We definitely see people get COVID more than once. That’s been very well documented. Even in Jackson County. We know that immunity from infection for only so long and people can get again,” Keteyian said.
Dragan came to the King Center for his second dose. He contracted COVID between his first and second dose but that did not deter him from doing his “civic duty.”
“I know how much of a detriment. Actually I had a lighter case of it because I had my first vaccine shot by that point. I would not want to see anybody else go through what I had to go through or worse what I went through,” Dragan said. “Whenever I stood up I would be instantly exhausted and felt like I worked an eight-hour shift when I was just trying to go to the bathroom.”
To convince those who might be on the fence that the vaccine is safe and effective will take education, Keteyian said.
“I think that is really where the biggest gains are to be made. There are places in the United States that are doing an excellent job. Even across Michigan there are counties that are over 70 percent vaccinated. Looking at that from a public health standpoint you feel very safe in those types of environments where the risk of transmission is very low. We’re just going to have to continue to work with people, educate them, and make them feel comfortable,” he said.
Keteyian is still optimistic Jackson can get more shots in arms and is pleased with the area’s vaccination rates so far.
“The vaccination clinic was here in your community and in your neck of the woods. It was really great to see a lot of people from this ward to get vaccinated. I think it was awesome,” Parker said.
The King Center, 1401 S. Adrian Street, will continue to work with Henry Ford Allegiance Health as a vaccination clinic while demand is there every Thursday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
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