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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.

Ending the pandemic

The vaccines will achieve their purpose – ending the pandemic – if we achieve widespread immunization.

Whether you are eager to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, or are waiting to learn more or even have doubts, UM Health-West wants to provide answers to your questions.

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. 

Stay Informed!

As vaccines become widely available in coming months, we will keep you informed with regular updates and resources. Enter your email address for updates to learn about the science, the safety and information about how and when you can receive the vaccine.

Questions & Answers

What is happening with third doses?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already has authorized third doses for people with weakened immune systems.

Now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recommended that, starting this fall, anyone who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine should get a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

If regulators approve these third doses, they could become available in late September for certain groups. Eligibility likely would follow the same order as the first round. (First access would go to health care workers and nursing-home residents, for example.)

The need for a second dose for the single-shot vaccine by Janssen (a division of Johnson & Johnson) remains under review.

We were told the vaccines were highly effective. Why do we need a third dose?

The authorized vaccines continue to provide very strong protection, particularly against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

However, health officials cite two reasons for the need for a third dose: Evidence shows vaccine-induced protection against COVID-19 infection begins to decrease over time, which also occurs with a natural infection. And the vaccine effectiveness is generally not as strong against the Delta variant. Boosting the previous vaccine series should provide more protection against the Delta variant and probably other variants, too.

In fact, many vaccines require multiple doses – the polio vaccine and the diphtheria-tetanus vaccine are just a couple of common examples.

Should I schedule my third dose now?

The only group eligible at this time are people with weakened immune systems who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Patients who meet these definitions can schedule their third dose through their primary care provider at least 28 days after their initial doses.

We will notify other patients when eligibility expands to other groups. You also can watch for eligibility updates here.

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.