Published in Health Care
Vaccines arriving at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. Vaccines arriving at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. COURTESY PHOTO

Top Michigan health official details COVID-19 vaccine plans as more frontline workers receive doses

BY Friday, December 18, 2020 09:54am

More Michigan hospitals are now vaccinating health care workers as doses of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine arrive.

Trinity Health’s hospitals in Michigan — including Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids and Mercy Health Muskegon — began vaccinating frontline staff Thursday, as did Bronson Healthcare in Kalamazoo, which began vaccinations hours after receiving its first 1,950 doses in the morning.

Trinity Health Michigan expects further weekly shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at four of its hospitals, as well as one developed and produced by Moderna Inc., which on Thursday received the backing of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel that recommended emergency approval.

“I am amazed and deeply grateful to the colleagues across our health system who have worked tirelessly to operationalize the vaccine distribution at our hospitals,” Dr. Rosalie Tocco-Bradley, chief clinical officer at Trinity Health Michigan, said in a statement. “We will continue to vaccinate as many employees as possible each week. We are confident in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, and strongly encourage everyone ages 16 and older to be vaccinated as the vaccine becomes more widely available.”

Metro Health-University of Michigan Health planned to begin vaccinating staff on Friday morning. The Ottawa County Department of Public Health as well plans to begin vaccinating EMS personnel and “other individuals facilitating the vaccination and testing site locations” on Friday.

Frontline health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities are the first to receive the vaccine. Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids and Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor on Tuesday became the first hospitals to begin vaccinating staff.

“This has been a monumental historic week here in the country, but especially in Michigan,” because the Pfizer vaccine is produced in Portage, Michigan Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Thursday in a briefing hosted by the Small Business Association of Michigan.

Michigan was allocated about 85,000 doses in the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires storage at minus-70 degrees, Khaldun said. 

Vaccine plan

The Moderna vaccine, pending final emergency use approval from the FDA, could begin shipping next week, Khaldun said. The state is slated to initially receive 173,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine for local health departments and smaller hospitals, she said.

The exact number of doses that Michigan will receive changes daily — and sometimes hourly — and the state may receive less than originally allocated, Khaldun said.

Vaccines will next go to people 65 or older and adults with medical conditions who are at higher from the coronavirus and COVID-19, followed by essential workers in critical industries such as police, firefighters, corrections officers, education, food and agriculture, utilities and transportation.

The vaccines would then become widely available — probably in late spring — through pharmacies and physician offices for the general public, Khaldun said.

Because of the logistics involved, phases to roll out the vaccine will run in parallel, meaning  “one phase may begin before another one is complete,” she said.

“We have an operational goal of vaccinating 70 percent of Michiganders age 16 and up by the end of next calendar year. That’s about 5.6 million people. That is quite a lofty goal,” Khaldun said. “It’s going to be quite a feat. I’m hopeful we can do that.”

Khaldun urged employers to encourage workers to get vaccinated, and to contact their local health department on plans for vaccination clinics. Vaccines likely will remain in limited supply by the time of the final phase.

“So, there’s going to be some conversations with local health departments that businesses will have as far as understanding how much vaccine they specifically will be allocated, and then determining based on that number who at the business would be vaccinated,” she said.

The coronavirus vaccines were developed in unprecedented time using a technology that’s been studied “for some time,” proven safe and highly effective, and is why Pfizer, Moderna and other pharmaceutical companies and clinical trials have moved so quickly “without skipping any steps,” Khaldun said.

Up-to-date information is also available at the state’s vaccine website.

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