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Be safe. Be ready. Be informed.

A safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 provides our best hope to save the lives of countless community members and bring the pandemic to an end. University of Michigan Health-West trusts the science, trusts the regulatory process and trusts that a vaccine is the best way to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community.

Protect Yourself and Others

The State of Michigan reports that from Jan. 3 – Dec. 15, 2021, people who were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated represented: 85.1% of COVID-19 cases, 88.1% of hospitalizations and 85.5% of deaths.

Obtain Copy of Vaccination Record

If you need a replacement copy of your COVID-19 vaccination card, visit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)’s Immunization Portal to obtain a new copy. Any individual 18 years and older who has been immunized in the state of Michigan can use the site to obtain a new copy of their vaccination record online.

Vaccine Distribution & Scheduling

UM Health-West will follow state and federal guidelines for distribution of the vaccine. 

Questions & Answers

What is a bivalent booster?

The updated boosters provide broader protection against newer variants. They are called “bivalent” because they protect against both the original form of the virus and the most recent Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, which are more contagious and more resistant than earlier strains of Omicron.

Can my child be vaccinated?

The CDC recommends children 6 months and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. These can be scheduled through MyChart or by calling your child’s primary care provider’s office.

What is a coronavirus variant, and why should I be concerned?

Variants are common with every virus – think of the seasonal flu as an example. Every time a virus reproduces, there is a chance for a genetic copying “error” or mutation.

Mutation and evolution often result in a virus that spreads more easily.

This is why it is so important to reduce infections through vaccination and other precautions. Every time the virus is passed on is another opportunity to mutate.

How Vaccines Work

Vaccines trigger our immune systems to make antibodies against bacteria or viruses. Antibodies are proteins that fight germs like viruses and bacteria by latching onto and disabling them. The goal is to teach your body’s defenses to create antibodies to fight off any future exposure to the real bacteria or virus. 

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are called “messenger RNA” vaccines. They do not contain pieces or proteins from the virus. Instead, they contain contains instructions, messenger RNA, that tell your cells to make a harmless piece of the COVID-19 spike protein. Once your cells make the spike protein, your immune system will make the antibodies that fight COVID-19 and protect you from getting sick from this virus. 

The Janssen (a division of Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is called a “viral vector vaccine,” and it uses a harmless adenovirus (such as the virus we refer to as the “common cold”) to deliver genetic instructions to teach the body to protect agains the coronavirus.

“The pandemic has presented all of us with a historic challenge. Science is providing COVID-19 vaccines as our best hope to defeat the pandemic.” – Peter Hahn, MD, MBA, President & CEO 


The vaccines were tested in large-scale clinical trials involving tens of thousands of diverse participants, volunteers from every walk of life. 

COVID vaccine trials need diverse test subjects, so a doctor rolled up his sleeve

Dr. Rakesh Pai understands the lifesaving power of vaccines as a physician, but also from a family perspective. When the opportunity came to volunteer to test one of the new COVID-19 vaccines, he did not hesitate. Read more

Safety/Efficacy COVID-19 Vaccines 

Vaccine development follows a rigorous process that begins with preclinical testing with animals to determine if the vaccine triggers an immune response. 

  • Phase 1 safety trials begin with small numbers of human volunteers to test safety and efficacy. 
  • Phase 2 expands the trials into larger groups, hundreds of people divided demographically, to see if their response varies and to further test safety and efficacy. 
  • Federal regulators from the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority designed large-scale studies to test the vaccines for safety and efficacy. The Food & Drug Administration developed guidelines that the vaccines will have to meet for Emergency Use Authorization. 
  • Phase 3 trials involve tens of thousands of volunteers, half of whom receive placebos. This is to test for side-effects, as well as efficacy. Neither the researchers nor the volunteers know who receives the vaccine and who receives a placebo. 
  • The United States is one of the few nations where regulators review the raw data collected during trials, rather than accepting the findings from vaccine manufacturers. This requires poring over all of documentation and re-analyzing the data from the trials.

Why We Need to be Immunized

Based on historic outbreaks of communicable diseases, scientists calculate that 70% of the population — more than 200 million people — will need to be immunized to end the COVID-19 pandemic. UM Health-West is committed to helping West Michigan achieve that goal. 

Population-wide immunity (also called ‘herd immunity’) means that enough people in a community are immune to a disease that the disease can’t spread easily among them. That helps protect people who are not immune—for example, those who can’t be vaccinated for some reason—from getting sick. 

For More Information

Visit Vaccinate West Michigan, a collaborative effort by the Kent County Health Department and all west Michigan healthcare organizations.