DETROIT - "The vaccine train has left the station and is moving towards our shared destination," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at the podium with a FEMA Detroit Lions backdrop.
Whitmer, alongside private and public officials from the federal government to local hospitals and grocery chains officially unveiled the country's first mass vaccination site at Ford Field, the latest step in expanding protection against COVID-19.
"Today though, we are announcing maybe the most important event we've ever hosted," said Detroit Lions Team President and CEO Rod Wood. "Over the next eight weeks, Ford Field will become not just the home of the Detroit Lions, not one of America's great concert and entertainment venues, but will be transformed into Michigan's largest inoculation clinic."
The state's selection as the federal government's first mass vaccine center places Michigan in the spotlight of one of the largest developments in the country's effort to distribute vaccines.
A total of 335,000 doses will be administered over the next eight weeks beginning on March 24. It will be used to service Southeast Michigan and potentially serve as a model for future sites.
The venue will make use of the concourse in addition to the field itself. "The setup will allow for easy flow of individuals, starting with check-in and ending with observation stations," said FEMA Region 5 Acting Regional Administrator Kevin M. Sligh Sr.
Officials touted the partnership of private and public entities as the reason behind making the clinic's unveiling possible. That includes Meijer for scheduling people, Henry Ford Health Systems for administering the doses, and the Lions for hosting the pilot program.
Ford Field chosen as first mass vaccination location
Ford Field hasn't been used as a regular facility for administering vaccine doses - that location has been at the TCF Center - but with the state's goal of covering 70% of the adults in the state by the end of the year, it was picked by the CDC as a prime location to roll out the federal government's pilot program.
Operations will run from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week. It is intended to serve all of Southeast Michigan. Several agencies will manage the facility, with the state of Michigan spearheading the effort with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Wayne County, the City of Detroit, Ford Field, Meijer, Henry Ford Health Systems, and the Lions.
All adults eligible for COVID-19 in April in Michigan
The vaccinations will be done in partnership with Meijer, who will also be on hand for Thursday's press conference.
The announcement of Ford Field as a mass vaccination clinic came just hours before Whitmer and her office announced that all adults over the age of 16 will be eligible for making an appointment starting on April 5.
Starting on Monday, March 22, anyone who is 50 and older, regardless of any health conditions, is eligible to be vaccinated.
Scheduling a vaccine appointment
It might be tricky to keep up with the changing nature of COVID-19 and vaccine eligibilities. There's little chance of momentum not keeping up, either.
For those that are eligible, you can find out more information about what's available on the state website here. There, residents can learn how to schedule a vaccine either by phone or over the Internet.
Not sure if you're eligible? While each city or county may have added more eligibilities like in Macomb County or Detroit, the state has established that anyone age 50 or older with pre-conditions can get a vaccine. People working in essential roles are also eligible for the vaccine.