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Pop-up vaccine clinics put public health workers in the public eye

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a drive-thru clinic.
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

Public health workers in Michigan are increasingly leaving the office and setting up small, mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics. They say it’s a good way to get more people vaccinated, but it also opens the health workers up to intimidation.

Lisa Turk was working at a vaccine clinic in Emmet County recently when she thought she might get hit by a truck. Turk’s a nurse with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.

“Somebody backed up their truck really fast right into the parking lot right next to where we were at, and I wasn’t sure he was going to stop. He did, and then drove off with a very loud muffler," she said.

Turk says she’s not sure if the incident was meant to intimidate her, or maybe the driver was just in a hurry. But she says the fact that she’s wondering at all shows how contentious the COVID-19 vaccination effort has become.

Turk says she hasn’t experienced any violence, but she’s heard loud and vocal opposition at some of the clinics she’s staffed.

Still, she says health workers won’t be intimidated out of their efforts to make vaccinations as convenient as possible.

Turk says that public presence can plant a seed in people’s minds that results in them visiting another clinic later and getting a shot.

She says she is starting to get worried that the number of people in Michigan who want a vaccine but haven’t gotten one is getting close to zero.

“It’s getting close to that point. We’ll keep trying,” she said.

The state health department says about 51 percent of eligible Michiganders have been fully vaccinated.

Brett joined Michigan Radio in December 2021 as an editor.
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