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What to know about getting vaccinated for COVID-19 in Michigan


Sarah Rahal Karen Bouffard   | The Detroit News

Doses of COVID-19 vaccines are trickling into Michigan’s hospitals, health departments and long-term care facilities as the more than 2.5 million people who are currently eligible to be vaccinated struggle to learn when and where they can be vaccinated.

At the current rate, it could take months to vaccinate those now eligible, including front-line workers, teachers, first responders and people age 65 or older, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, said Wednesday.

Some officials have said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should not have opened vaccinations up to people ages 65 and older beginning Monday - which lengthened the queue by about 702,000 people - while the state was vaccinating the initial group of 800,000 front-line workers. But Michigan Department of Health and Human Services officials say the priority is getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Large-scale vaccination centers, which have been swiftly set up across the state, have the capacity to inoculate tens of thousands of people per day. But appointments have been dramatically limited because Michigan doesn't have enough vaccine.

Appointments to be vaccinated at health departments and hospitals are filling up as soon as they become available, providers said. Michigan anticipates receiving 62,400 doses the week of Jan. 18, MDHHS spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin, and health providers said that will lead to additional shortages of vaccine beginning next week.

Michigan Medicine received 20,000 fewer doses of vaccine than planned this week, and has placed a temporary hold on scheduling first-dose vaccine appointments because it only has enough to fulfill appointments already scheduled, spokeswoman Mary Masson said.

“Please be patient, we do not have enough vaccines and it takes time to administer, but we are building quickly and it looks like we’re going to be coming into more vaccines soon,” Whitmer said Wednesday. “This is the greatest tool we have to end this pandemic.”

Here's what you need to know:

Eligibility

The vaccine will be rolled out in phases, based on availability. The state began vaccinating front-line health care workers in December and on Monday, the state extended eligibility to additional health care workers, those in long-term care facilities, residents 65 and older, and childcare, corrections and K-12 school staff.

An estimated 2,576,000 Michigan residents are considered eligible for the vaccine, but the state had just 831,150 doses as of Wednesday, Sutfin said in an email to The News.

Sutfin said Michigan expects to receive an allotment of 60,450 doses of Pfizer's vaccine this week.

The state is also accelerating distribution with the Michigan National Guard, Sutfin said.

"We recognize that there is not enough vaccine for every currently eligible individual with the limited supplies we have," Sutfin said. "There will be some places that run out of vaccine and do not have enough appointments available. This is why we have asked the federal government to give the State of Michigan more vaccines."

Vaccination will take place in different phases that occur simultaneously, the state health department said.

Pharmacies

Michigan has more than 5,000 facilities participating in the federal program to vaccinate staff and residents in long-term care facilities, which is being administered by CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. Michigan's allotment of Moderna vaccine doses through the end of January are being shipped directly to the companies, which coordinate distribution, vaccination and federal and state reporting. The companies are not accepting appointments at their stores.

Meijer's 120 pharmacies throughout Michigan are partnering to distribute the vaccine through a text-based registration process through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership Program.

Meijer will administer the first doses at a limited number of stores in Wayne County to patients 65 and older beginning the week of Jan. 18. Specific store locations have not yet been determined. Text "COVID" to 75049 to receive a link to register.

Health departments

A list of local health departments will be updated daily on the state's website.

County health departments that are scheduling for front-line health care workers in Phase 1A:

  • Bay, Dickinson-Iron District Health Department, District Health Department #2 & #4, Genesee, Huron, Jackson, Lapeer, Marquette, Midland, Monroe, Shiawassee, Tuscola and Wayne counties

Available for 1B (seniors, essential front-line workers) appointments or waitlists:

Detroit is boosting its COVID-19 vaccination call center staffing, expanding the hours of operation and urging those not yet eligible to hold tight after being inundated Monday with more than 120,000 requests for vaccination appointments. The city has converted the TCF Center parking garage into a drive-through vaccine center, by appointment only.

Mayor Mike Duggan said Detroit is hoping to provide 20,000 coronavirus vaccinations by early February if the state is able to maintain an adequate supply. If additional doses come through, they hope to increase the number of vaccinations to 30,000, the mayor told reporters Tuesday.

Detroit is currently offering vaccinations to residents over age 75 and any "good neighbor" driver, 65 or older, who accompanies them to the TCF Center, as well as essential workers including K-12 teachers and childcare workers. All participants must make an appointment in advance. The city also ramped up vaccinations of critical workers including police officers and bus drivers.

The city has booked its first 2,000 appointments, already set up through the first part of next week. Detroiters eligible should call (313) 230-0505 to arrange appointments.

Macomb County's health department has exhausted its supply of vaccine and is unable to make new appointments before its next shipment of vaccines, officials posted to the county's website.

About 300,000 Macomb residents qualify for the vaccine, but the county's allocation for this week was 3,800 doses, County Executive Mark Hackel said Tuesday. 

"We need to make sure we have the supply before start continuing to open the demand," Hackel said. "If we're going to try to figure out how do we get to the masses, it can't just be with health departments throughout the state."

The Oakland County Health Division asked residents to remain patient Wednesday as the department is seeing an overwhelming demand for the vaccine. The department has received 7,800 doses, administered about 5,600, and scheduled an estimated 17,000-plus first- and second-dose appointments through the end of February, officials said.

There are more than 217,000 residents age 65 and older eligible to receive the vaccine in Oakland County. Officials are directing seniors to hospital systems to check for availability. The department's phone lines have received more than 20,000 calls each day and officials say the minimal supply limits their ability to schedule further appointments.

To join the waiting list, use the county's Save Your Spot link on its website, oaklandcountyvaccine.com. Residents can also text OAKGOV COVID to 468311 for updates. For anyone unable to complete the form, call the health hotline at 800-848-5533. 

“We are asking the community to help us plan for administering future doses of vaccine we receive by completing this new form,” County Executive David Coulter said in a press release. “This will help us reach residents and workers who are eligible for vaccination when more doses become available.  As we receive more vaccine, we will continue to administer them quickly and efficiently until everyone has the opportunity to receive the vaccine.”

The Washtenaw County Health Department repurposed Eastern Michigan University's Convocation Center as a vaccination center, said Susan Ringler Cerniglia, the department's spokeswoman. The center has eight to 14 vaccination stations operating at a time and can inoculate up to a thousand people a day.

"We’re working toward as soon as we have sufficient vaccine to do 5,000 a week," she said. As of Wednesday, the Washtenaw County Health Department had administered 2,088 initial doses, and 70 second doses, of the two-dose vaccine.

Dr. Mouhanad Hammami, Wayne County health strategist, said demand for the vaccine is outpacing the state's ability to supply it to regional health departments. The county has an estimated 500,000 people eligible for the vaccine but only received 2,900 doses this week, which will be exhausted by next week, he told county commissioners Tuesday.

Hospitals and health systems currently have the most reliable supply of vaccines for seniors, Hammami said.

"I want to emphasize that anyone 65 and older because this is the contradiction that the state has said, 'Call your health department,' which will do them no good if they call us. In fact, it will put a lot of burden on us because we are going to repeat the same message: You need to go to your health system," Hammami told The Detroit News Monday.

Hospitals

Residents are encouraged to check their health provider's online medical chart or portal as all local health systems are going to start making appointments for their patients once they vaccinate their medical personnel.

Oakland County officials are directing 1B groups to Beaumont Health, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, Ascension Providence and McLaren Oakland. 

Beaumont Health has tripled its server capacity after its website crashed Friday due to heavy demand for vaccines.

The health system will continue working on the system and plans to expand capacity even more, said Hans Keil, Beaumont’s chief information officer.

A limited number of appointments became available Monday to patients by a randomized computer lottery.

Senior patients receive an email inviting them to schedule their vaccination through their myBeaumontChart account. When Beaumont receives confirmation about how many doses will arrive next week, the health system will send additional email invitations to eligible patients to schedule appointments.

"We are in regular communication with state and local officials and talking with them about increasing our allocations of the vaccine because we have the capacity to do so much more," Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said in a press release. "Next week, we hope to launch two additional clinics and should have the capacity to do more than 50,000 vaccinations a week. Again, this all depends upon how much vaccine we receive."

Beaumont is also preparing to launch a call center to assist with answering questions and scheduling appointments. However, right now, the only way to schedule an appointment is online through myBeaumontChart.

Henry Ford Health System is prioritizing existing patients who are 65 and older, patients who have certain high-risk conditions or meet the broader eligibility requirements announced last week.

Once adequate vaccine supply becomes available, Henry Ford will open as many as eight appointment-only vaccination sites throughout southeast Michigan with the combined capacity to vaccinate between 4,000 and 5,000 people per day, officials announced Wednesday.

Nearly 32,000 patients, or 94%, of those who responded to a Henry Ford survey, said they wanted to receive the vaccine. The hospital system is contacting patients who meet eligibility requirements through MyChart, text messaging and phone calls.

The hospital has more than 800 appointments scheduled this week for the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, officials said Wednesday.

About 70% of Henry Ford's staff of more than 33,000 team members have received at least the first dose of the vaccine. Approximately 22% of employees declined vaccination, but are eligible to change their mind and sign up to be vaccinated. The health system anticipates all team members who want to be vaccinated will receive the first dose by the first week of February.

Michigan Medicine was prepared to complete its Phase 1A and roll out to Phase 1B on Monday, but only has enough to complete first-dose appointments already scheduled as well as administer second doses, Masson said Wednesday.

"We ordered 24,000 doses for this week. We received about 4,000 doses, which will be used for second doses scheduled for this week," she said in an email to The News.

Michigan Medicine is administering more than 90% of its vaccine supply each week.

"Michigan Medicine is ready and staffed to perform as many as 12,000 vaccinations per week, with rapid expansion capability to 24,000 vaccinations per week and additional locations prepared to open when vaccine supply is available," Masson said. "We are eager to move into Phase 1B, which includes our patients who are age 65 and older and frontline essential workers, and we are actively working with state officials to partner on solutions."

The 14-hospital Spectrum Health system in West Michigan opened a vaccination center in Grand Rapids on Monday and scheduled 1,800 patients for its first day. As of Tuesday, it has vaccinated 23,782 people and has no further supplies of vaccines.

"We will pause scheduling until we receive another shipment," Spectrum posted on its website. "If you currently have an appointment to receive a vaccine, rest assured that we have reserved a vaccine for your confirmed appointment. To be notified when a vaccine is available for you, please fill out our COVID-19 Vaccination Questionnaire." 

Sparrow Health System, based in Lansing, has distributed 8,545 doses of the vaccine as of Tuesday and is arranging plans to begin administering the vaccination this week to residents 70 and older and to essential workers, per the recommendation of the Ingham County Health Department. 

Sparrow has received 17,725 vaccine doses and 99% of them have been allocated, officials said in a release Tuesday.

Vaccinations this week were invitation-only, Sparrow officials said in a statement. "We hope to announce our plans for public vaccines as early as Monday."

Khaldun the process will take several months to complete at the current rate, but the general public should prepare to receive the vaccine by late spring.

“We are working hard to bring more vaccines into Michigan and identify additional locations for people who want to be vaccinated. Please don’t show up to any location without an appointment," she said.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_