COVID Vaccine - web only

A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown.

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Berrien County health officials said Thursday that demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is still far outpacing supply.

As of Thursday, more than 7,000 vaccinations have been given to Berrien County health care workers, emergency medical and first responders, and long-term care residents, as well as those who are at highest-risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to risk factors, such as age or exposure due to occupation.

“The Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) and Spectrum Health Lakeland continue to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to those who are eligible and interested as quickly as possible. Aligning with state benchmarks, the collective goal is to distribute at least 90 percent of the vaccines allocated within seven days of receipt,” the hospital and health department wrote in a joint news release.

Both plan to further expand capacity to operate multiple large-scale vaccination clinics each week, as vaccine supply allows.

To date, more than 19,000 older adults have expressed interest in being vaccinated, according to BCHD and Spectrum Health Lakeland vaccine surveys.

“While it is encouraging to see so many eager individuals who are ready to be vaccinated, the demand for the vaccine is far outpacing the supply coming into Berrien County,” Nicki Britten, health officer for the BCHD, said in the release. “Vaccine allocations are unpredictable; recently the total number of vaccines delivered to Berrien County ranges between 1,000 to 2,500 doses a week. At the rate that vaccines are being allocated, it will take time to move through all those who are eligible and interested in getting the vaccine.”

Planning is underway to provide vaccinations to additional groups who are now eligible in Michigan, including childcare providers and pre-K through high school staff, within the next few weeks. Other essential workers not currently eligible, as well as people between the ages of 16 and 64 with health conditions that puts them at higher risk for serious COVID-19 complications, can expect to receive vaccinations by late-spring or early-summer.

“Spectrum Health Lakeland and the health department are asking for continued patience as planning is ongoing and appointment availability continues to expand,” officials wrote.

Vaccine clinics remain available by appointment-only at this time.

The most efficient way to indicate interest in receiving a COVID-19 vaccination appointment is to complete the registration wait list available on the BCHD website (for those over the age of 65 and employers of essential workers) or complete the survey available via Lakeland MyChart located under “questionnaires” in the My Record section.

These lists will be used as the primary means of confirming eligibility and notifying residents when they can schedule a vaccination.

Individuals on these waitlists will not receive a “confirmation” email or notification of their status on the list, but rather must wait until either organization has vaccine availability to schedule them for an appointment. Completing either survey does not mean individuals will be scheduled for an appointment immediately; individuals should anticipate that it may be several weeks before they receive notification of appointment availability.

People are encouraged to assist their family and friends with the online registration process, particularly those over the age of 65 who may be without internet access or email.

BCHD and Lakeland officials will give a COVID-19 update at 11:30 a.m. today via Facebook Live on the health department’s Facebook page.

For more information about COVID-19 and vaccine distribution in Berrien County, visit bchdmi.org/COVID19 or call the BCHD COVID hotline at 1-800-815-5485.

Data update

Berrien County recorded three additional COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, bringing the county’s death toll to 190.

All the deaths were people over the age of 60.

In addition, the county recorded 53 new cases of COVID-19, along with 43 recoveries.

With recoveries slowing some, the county is at about 1,390 active cases, which is down from just 1,422 last Thursday. That’s still down from the Thursday before, when the county was at about 1,687 active cases.

COVID hospitalizations at Spectrum Health Lakeland dropped to 29 Thursday morning. That’s the first time an inpatient count in the 20s has been reported since October. Last Thursday, the hospital reported having 40 COVID patients admitted.

Van Buren County recorded an additional COVID-19 death on Thursday, bringing the county’s death toll to 81. No new deaths were recorded in Cass County.

In addition on Thursday, Van Buren County recorded 15 new COVID-19 cases and Cass County recorded nine.

Rite Aid expands testing

Rite Aid, which offers free COVID-19 testing at drive-thru pharmacy locations, announced Thursday that it will now allow children ages 4 and older to get tested starting today.

The Rite Aid locations in Bridgman, Hartford and Niles all offer COVID-19 testing.

The testing sites will continue to utilize self-swab nasal tests overseen by Rite Aid pharmacists, and all individuals are required to register online at www.riteaid.com to schedule a time-slot for testing.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, Twitter: @HPANewman