By Hank Minckiewicz

Nowhere in Wyandotte Recreation Superintendent Justin Lanagan’s job description is there anything that mentions running a vaccination center.

But no other city official has that in their job title, either. So when Wayne County called and asked about Wyandotte hosting such a clinic, it fell to Lanagan.

Mayor Rob DeSana was busy the day that Wayne County called and so he asked Lanagan to sit in on the call. So he did. When Lanagan called DeSana to explain that the country wanted the city to run a vaccination site, DeSana asked the recreation man if he could be the point man on the project.


We won’t keep you in suspense – the job Lanagan and Wyandotte did was better than good, it was outstanding.

“It went as smooth as a baby’s behind,” said Lanagan and that’s just what he told DeSana, who called to check in on his way home from vacation on vaccination day.

On Saturday, March 13, Wyandotte vaccinated 672 residents and could have done many, many more if Wayne County had been a little more cooperative.

Wyandotte requested 1,000 doses of vaccine. The obvious site for a vaccination center in Wyandotte is the Yack Arena, but it was unavailable on March 13 because the ice was still in. So the city chose The Copeland Center. 

When the county representative came out to inspect the week before the vaccinations, he said Copeland was too small and the event would have to be cancelled.

Well, Lanagan called DeSana, who called state representative Joe Palamara and some pressure was applied and the site was approved, but just for 700 doses, not 1,000.

With the help of a multitude of volunteers, including councilpersons Megan Maiani and Chris Chris Calvin, who administered shots, the event ran smoothly and uneventfully.

“We even had slow times where the volunteers could take a little break,” said Lanagan. “We had lunch catered in and easily could have done 1,000 shots.”

Patients lined up, checked in, got their shots and returned to their cars to wait for 15 minutes to see if they had a severe reaction. None did.

Volunteers were called at 7:30 a.m. and everyone from shot givers to traffic controllers to name takers were given an hour’s worth of training before the doors opened. And when they were finally opened, things ran as smoothly as Lanagan had planned on his multi-colored chart.

“I’ve been here 23 years,” Lanagan said. “We’ve done fireworks and parades, we know about traffic problems. The bottom line is, we know how to get things done and that’s what we did.”

The city gave Pfizer vaccines, which means that it had to do the drill all over again on April 3, the day before Easter and, like the first go-around, it ran like a well-oiled machine.

Lanagan said the success of the whole operation was due to the response of the volunteers in the city, including the fire and police chiefs, council members, retired department heads, residents and the Downriver Democratic Club.

Several other smaller Downriver communities, like Trenton, Riverview and Rockwood are joining forces to host a vaccination day of their own. The cities involved have a combined population of about 55,000. 

Seeing that, Lanagan contacted the city of Southgate and then Wayne County about the neighboring communities hosting another round of vaccinations. Together the combined population of Wyandotte and Southgate is about 55,000.

Lanagan said Southgate is open to the idea and if they can get approval from the county, the neighbors could run an 1,800-vaccination clinic perhaps  May 1 or May 15.

Hopefully they will get approval, because as Lanagan and his volunteers have proven: They know how to get things done.

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