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An employee with the Berrien County Health Department prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine recently. 

BENTON TOWNSHIP — The Berrien County Health Department announced Tuesday that the next phase of vaccinations can now begin, clearing the way for a host of newly eligible residents to sign up.

Anyone in Phase 1A is now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the department said. Since the department received its first shipment of vaccine last week, officials say more than 300 initial doses went out to staff and other individuals in priority groups 1 and 2 of Phase 1A. This includes emergency medical personnel, some long-term care residents and long-term care facility workers, according to a news release.

In total as of Monday, according to state figures, about 1,000 Berrien County residents had been vaccinated either by Lakeland, the county health department or as part of the pharmacy program to vaccinate long-term care facility residents. According to the state, as of Tuesday, 6,200 doses have so far been sent to Berrien County.

Those now newly eligible to get vaccinated include:

  • Physicians, nurses, or other health care providers who may work with patients, such as: physical therapists, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers, discharge planners, patient care associates, phlebotomists, blood bank technicians, radiology technicians, or any other support staff who interfaces with patients;
  • Students (medical/nursing/physician assistant/other clinical students), residents or fellows in training in any specialty program who are involved in direct patient care, and volunteers who work directly with patients;
  • Dentists, dental hygienists, optometrists, and clerical staff in any area of the facility who may interface with patients;
  • Hospital security guards who may interface with patients, environmental services staff in any area of facilities that may interface with patients or infectious material directly or indirectly, food service workers who may serve patients, their families, or employees;
  • Pharmacists and laboratory workers (even if they do not interface with patients);
  • Those in outpatient substance use disorder treatment facilities or other outpatient settings, including, dialysis centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care clinics, hyperbaric centers, infusion centers, rehabilitation facilities, or any other area that is involved in direct patient care whose job location may not be physically connected to a hospital.

The BCHD is working directly with facilities that employ people in these priority groups to coordinate vaccination for their employees. However, if there are facilities or people who fall into these priority groups who have not yet heard directly from the BCHD or their employer, they should contact the health department for information on appointment instructions.

People in Phase 1A can call 1-800-815-5485, or fill out an online form, at bchdmi.org, to indicate their interest in getting vaccinated. Employees should bring their occupation or work identification badge for verification upon arrival for the vaccination appointment.

At this time, vaccinations are only for those who fall into the groups listed above and are provided by appointment only. Vaccines are being provided at the BCHD offices and at drive-thru clinics at various locations throughout the county.

It is anticipated Berrien County will move on to Phase 1B by late January or early February, according to the news release. Phase 1B includes people over the age of 75, along with front-line essential workers.

To find out your phase and priority group, and to sign up for the BCHD’s vaccine newsletter, visit www.bchdmi.org/1745/COVID-19-Vaccine-Information.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman