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Michigan asks for patience with COVID-19 vaccine distribution

The state is receiving far fewer doses of vaccine than originally hoped, so appointments are hard to come by
COVID-19 vaccinations at Med Center Health phase 1b.
COVID-19 vaccinations at Med Center Health phase 1b.(WBKO)
Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 1:14 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan is not receiving nearly as much COVID-19 vaccine doses as originally hoped and that is leading to lengthy delays in distributing it, according to officials from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

Michigan was slated to receive about 300,000 doses of the vaccine per week, but currently only about 60,000 doses per week are being shipped to the Mitten State. That means thousands of people currently eligible for the vaccine currently cannot even get an appointment for their dose.

“There is currently not enough supply to allow every Michigander who is eligible to get an appointment,” said Tricia Foster, who is the chief operating officer for Whitmer’s administration. “We’re as disappointed as you.”

State health officials hoped to vaccinate about 50,000 Michiganders per week against the coronavirus, but there is not nearly enough vaccine available right now, she said.

“Thankfully, though, demand is increasing,” Foster said.

Michigan has moved to the second of four phases for administering the vaccine. The first phase of vaccinating health care workers with direct contact to patients and residents or staff at long-term care facilities was continuing Wednesday.

Anyone age 65 or older and workers in critical industries like teachers and first responders became eligible for the vaccine in the second phase beginning Monday. But many people in this phase say they are unable to get a vaccine appointment or the wait times are several weeks.

Foster said every dose of COVID-19 vaccine received in Michigan is being shipped immediately to a health care provider in the state. They have seven days to administer every dose of the vaccine.

“The state of Michigan is not sitting on doses of the vaccine,” Foster said.

She noted significant progress in distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccine doses around the state. Over the past seven days, the number of doses administered nearly tripled from about 12,000 per day to around 33,000 per day.

Foster said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Michigan National Guard are prepared to continue ramping up the number vaccine doses administered as more become available.

“We’re asking Michiganders for some patience,” she said. “We have the tools and resources. We only need the supply.”

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced this week that the federal stockpile of COVID-19 vaccine will be released to states, so the federal government no longer will hold back any doses. Michigan officials are awaiting clarity on how that will affect the state’s vaccine shipments.

Whitmer announced on Wednesday that her administration chose Meijer as the initial pharmacy partner to administer COVID-19 vaccine to the general public. The Grand Rapids-based retail giant has 120 locations in Michigan, where the vaccine can be administered.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal of vaccinating 5.4 million adults against COVID-19 by the end of next summer. That figure amounts to about 70% of Michigan’s adult population, which would help the state reach herd immunity against the illness.

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