Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer received her second shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Thursday in Grand Rapids, as she promoted vaccinations as the path back to “that normalcy that we all crave.”

“As we keep ramping up our vaccinations, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s getting brighter,” Whitmer said.

Two weeks from today, when her second vaccine dose takes full effect, she looks forward to reconnecting with friends she has not seen for more than a year. Whitmer’s 19-year-old daughter, Sherry Shrewsbury, also received her second dose Thursday.

Michigan Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun, MD, delivered the injection to Whitmer at the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic, a partnership of Kent County, Spectrum Health and Mercy Health.

Whitmer also discussed her new MI Vacc to Normal challenge, which outlines steps toward reopening Michigan, based on vaccination rates.

“I know if we all do our part, it is very, very real and very likely that we can all enjoy the Michigan summer every one of us craves,” she said.

Tina Freese Decker, President & CEO of Spectrum Health, said she hopes the recent surge in COVID-19 cases will be the last—thanks to the rise in vaccinations and safety precautions.

“I urge you to get the vaccine,” she said. “It has and it will save lives. It contributes to the overall health of our community.”

Young ambassadors

Also receiving vaccines at the clinic at DeVos Place were six Grand Rapids Public School students who volunteered to be part of the COVID-19 student ambassador program launched by the Protect Michigan Commission.

Michigan youth are among the fastest growing segment of the population at risk of COVID-19, which has infected more than 900,000 people in Michigan and killed more than 17,000.

In the counties of Kent, Ottawa, Allegan and Kalamazoo, about 21,000 teens have been vaccinated, said Leadriane Roby, PhD, superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools.

“That’s about 28% of all 16- to 19-year-olds in a four-county region,” she said. “That’s a great start.”

She hopes the youth ambassadors will encourage a rise in vaccination rates by promoting the vaccine to their peers.

For the teens, the vaccine represents the hope they will be able to enjoy traditional school events—classes, sports, prom and graduation.

“Especially graduation,” said Esther Solis, a 17-year-old junior at Innovation High School. “I want to throw those hats in the air. That’s iconic.”

“I really want everything to go back to normal,” said her twin sister Naomi, also a junior at Innovation Central. “A lot of people are scared they are going to get (COVID-19).”

Both girls shared their surprise that the vaccinations were just a tiny poke.

“It felt like nothing,” Esther said.

Protecting older adults and family members is another good reason to get the vaccine, said Randell Jones, 18, a senior at Ottawa Hills High School. The other students who received the vaccine included Pablo Villalvazo, 18, a senior at Union High School; Ruby Taylor, 17, a junior at Frost Environmental Sciences Middle High School, and Mi’a Jaden Johnson, 17, a junior at Grand Rapids University Prep Academy.

“I just want to keep my great-grandmother around,” Randell said. “This is for her.”