ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Some pretty impressive battles have taken place at the University of Michigan's Big House over the years, but nothing quite like its latest undertaking.
As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues around the country, its distribution has snaked its way to Ann Arbor where the university health system hopes to innoculate hundreds of health care workers today.
The country's vaccine rollout has gotten off to a slow and messy start, with reports of delays from some versions of the treatment, intentional destruction of dozens of vials, and even fights nearly breaking out in lines.
Following its breathtakingly fast development, vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna arrived on the scene in mid-December. The treatment's arrival was among the more positive stories amid the pandemic, which promises to be just as messy in 2021 after taking a battering ram to this year.
So far, several thousand Michigan residents have received the first shot from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Among the few that have pioneered the way forward after being the first to receive the vaccine was U-M professor Dr. David Belmonte.
"I never thought of myself that way, but I guess so. I guess we're all still part of an experimental cohort trying to figure out what are the long-term side effects," Belmonte, a psychiatry professor. "But hopefully this is going to lead to being able to return to some normal semblance of life."
States have been plagued by several pitfalls in their own rollouts over the past few weeks. Lacking financial and technical support along with too little equipment to store the vaccine has led to a bungled administration of the virus.
There have also been reports of symptoms appearing shortly after people receive the vaccine. While as many as 10 have reported serious allergic reactions, almost everyone else who has received the first two shots saw their symptoms disappear quickly.
There are also many unknowns about the vaccine's long-term effects. But the risks are worth it to Belmonte.
"I work in an emergency room, it's a risky environment. We don't know what the patient's status is at the time and it just allows me to be able to take care of patients and not worry about that," he said. "We don't know what the long-term effects are but I think it was worth the risk."
So far Michigan Medicine is only vaccinating workers and students who fall into the vaccine priority group Phase 1a.