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Genesee County Health Department’s new leader talks top job, vaccine distribution

Dr. Pamela Hackert joined the team Monday, January 4, becoming the first woman to lead the county’s health department.
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 4:40 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (1/5/2021) - The New Year brings new leadership to the Genesee County Health Department.

ABC12 first reported in October, the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Pamela Hackert to the top position.

She joined the team Monday, January 4, becoming the first woman to lead the county’s health department.

Dr. Pamela Hackert’s new title is Medical Health Officer. The County has combined the positions of health director and medical director. Dr. Hackert explained that’s why she applied for the job.

She said she’ll serve as both an advisor and a facilitator for change.

“A lot of great work has been done, but my background is just kind of unique and I think that it will really fit well,” she said. “So, I was very excited about the opportunity to do that.”

Just because the COVID-19 vaccine is here, Dr. Hackert said that does not mean the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

The county’s new health leader has only been on the job for about 24 hours; but she said, the County has COVID-19 under control.

She called Genesee County’s COVID-19 response plan “strong.”

Dr. Hackert credits the three hospitals in town, which are leading the vaccine rollout in our community.

Right now, the effort is focused on vaccinating people whose jobs or living situations put them at risk of contracting coronavirus.

All of her new staff hasn’t even received the vaccine yet.

“Staff wise here, anyone who’s involved in going out and actually doing the vaccine clinics, that’s who has been vaccinated,” she explained. “Otherwise, we’ve been holding the vaccine for the community workers.”

Dr. Hackert said with hospitals taking care of their own staff, the county health department’s current effort includes dentists, pharmacists and healthcare workers with their own practices. That’s who they’re able to administer their small supply of just 1200 vaccines to right now.

“In terms of the freezer kind of requirements, that’s why most of the supplies, or most of the inventory of vaccines, have gone through the hospital systems,” she explained.

Dr. Hackert said the next group in line will be funeral home directors and those over 75-years-old.

Dr. Hackert is hopeful the county will be able to expand their reach as the supply increases and more easily stored COVID-19 vaccines, like AstraZeneca’s, are approved.

Because of her prior work seeing patients daily in Jackson, Dr. Hackert did receive the vaccine already.

“I think I may have had a small reaction, a little bit of blistering out of the inside of my lip. And I took Benadryl and it went away. Am I going to get the second vaccine? Oh, you bet, you know, and I’ll just take a Benadryl beforehand. So, that’s how strongly I feel about it,” she explained. “I would do anything to make sure that I get vaccinated and my family and friends get vaccinated.”

Dr. Hackert added they are unable to move to the next phase of vaccine distribution until all nursing homes are taken care of. That’s a national effort being handled by CVS and Walgreens.

The state health department explaining those pharmacies are administering the Moderna vaccine. So, it won’t be available for local health departments and hospitals to order until January 24th.

MDHHS says Pfizer’s vaccine is still being provided in Michigan, but the supply is limited.

Dr. Hackert adds her Department still needs your help when it comes to contact tracing and investigating positive cases.

Right now, the race of 40-percent of cases is unknown. Without that information, Dr. Hackert said it’s more difficult to properly stop the spread.

Dr. Hackert comes to the Genesee County Health Department, after spending the last year as the Medical Director for the Jackson County Health Department. She also saw patients at Henry Ford Hospital.

Before those positions, she worked for the state health department, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw Counties.

Dr. Hackert has both a medical and a law degree, as well as a Masters in Public Health.

She’s eager to use her experience to further Genesee County.

“But to be able to say this is something I’m going to change right away, I think would really not do justice to both the community resources that are in Genesee County, which are amazing,” Dr. Hackert said. “And also, the health department which has been working on so many different issues right now.”

Dr. Hackert made it clear people across the county will get to know her well. She plans to get involved in community conversations, especially when it comes to the continued healing from Flint’s water crisis.

She most recently completed a fellowship on Occupational Environmental Medicine to help her better understand the impact of water contamination. She explained, “I really want to hear the community’s concerns about it. Because sometimes concerns can be addressed more easily than, than they expected.”

Dr. Hackert replaces John McKellar who retired from the department in October.

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