Michigan health officials: There's not enough COVID-19 vaccine for everyone

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

With more than 2.5 million Michigan residents now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, there isn't enough available to vaccinate everyone who qualifies, state health officials said Tuesday. 

An estimated 2,576,000 Michiganders are considered eligible for the vaccine, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said in an email to The News. 

About 802,000 of those are paid or unpaid health care workers and long-term care staff who qualified to be vaccinated during Phase 1a of the state's vaccine rollout. Another 702,000 people became eligible last Wednesday when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer opened vaccinations to everyone 65 or older.

"MDHHS is committed to accelerating vaccine delivery as we work to reach our goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders over age 16 as quickly as possible with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine," Sutfin said. 

"That’s why we are moving to make vaccine available to any Michigander over age 65 and accelerating vaccinations for our preK-12, day care staff and other essential frontline workers; it’s why we are collaborating with the federal pharmacy program to accelerate delivery and working to address vaccine hesitancy in nursing homes; and it’s why we are accelerating distribution with the National Guard."

Senior citizen Fred Peeples received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the federal government for permission on Monday for the state to make a one-time purchase of up to 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine directly from Pfizer Inc.

Whitmer, a Democrat, made the request in a letter to Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It comes after she urged Republican President Donald Trump's administration last week to release millions of vaccine doses that she said had been "held back."

"This direct purchase will fill a two-week lag in supply and ensure that we can continue to ramp up our vaccination efforts across Michigan," the governor wrote.

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 to the number of doses on hand and are filling up as soon as they become available, health care providers have told The News. 

According to Sutfin, Michigan expects to receive an allotment of 60,450 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week. The state’s Moderna allocation is being transferred to CVS and Walgreens until the end of this month as part of the Federal Long Term Care Program to vaccinate individuals in long-term care facilities.

"We recognize that there is not enough vaccine for every currently eligible individual with the limited supplies we have," Sutfin said Tuesday. "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."


Twitter: @kbouffardDN