U-M begins COVID-19 vaccinations at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor

The Big House new site for campuswide vaccination program

Nurse Kristy Smyth preps a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 31, 2020. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – Michigan Stadium reopened its doors on Thursday morning after months of closure as a new site for Michigan Medicine’s sweeping COVID-19 vaccination program.

Throughout the morning, university staff and students who fall under the priority group Phase 1A trickled in to the Jack Roth Stadium Club to receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Roughly 200 individuals are scheduled to receive the vaccine on Thursday at the new program location.

Michigan Medicine aims to eventually vaccinate 2,000 people per day at The Big House, said David Miller, urologist and Chief Clinical Officer at U-M’s Cardiovascular Hospital.

Signs guide individuals to Michigan Medicine's COVID Vaccine Clinic at the Jack Roth Stadium Club at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 31, 2020. (Meredith Bruckner)

“As our supply from the state increased, we’ve needed to expand our locations for vaccinations beyond the hospital and we thought the stadium was a great location,” said Miller.

Miller said the Big House was chosen for its large indoor space, allowing plenty of room for vaccination teams and proper social distancing. He added that easy parking also played a factor in designating the site.

Individuals are seen being monitored for 15 minutes after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 31, 2020. (Meredith Bruckner)

“Looking forward, we’re considering that we’ll have to vaccinate up to 130,000 individuals,” Miller added. “So being able to do this to scale, we see the stadium as an important part of our overall efforts.”

He said that as vaccine supply increases and state guidelines shift, Michigan Medicine plans to expand through Phase 2 of the state’s vaccine plan, which includes everyone over the age of 16.

Retired nurse Deborah Rutherford was busy vaccinating individuals at her station. A nurse for 44 years, she wanted to lend her skills to the vaccination effort so that inpatient nurses could continue working in the hospital.

Retired nurse Deborah Rutherford has re-joined the workforce to administer COVID-19 vaccines for Michigan Medicine. (Meredith Bruckner)

“I never wanted to stop working,” said Rutherford. “It’s exciting to be part of something that’s a part of history. University of Michigan is so organized.”

Pediatric emergency room nurse, Brandi Schneider, received her first dose of the vaccine on Thursday morning. When asked if she’d been in contact with COVID-19 patients, she said it’s very possible.

“A lot of times in the ER, you don’t know what’s coming in until hours later,” said Schneider.

Emergency Room nurse Brandi Schneider receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from former colleague Kristy Smyth at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 31, 2020. (Meredith Bruckner)

She said she was getting vaccinated to protect those around her, including her husband who has lung issues.

The vaccine vials themselves were kept in a guarded cooler equipped with an alarm should temperatures rise above proper deep freeze storage levels.

A nurse holds vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine above a deep freeze cooler at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 31, 2020. Each vial has six doses of the vaccine. (Meredith Bruckner)

As of Wednesday, Michigan Medicine has vaccinated nearly 7,000 members of its frontline community. Vaccinations are being administered seven days a week, including on holidays.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.