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Detroit expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to city workers, residents 70+

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday expanded eligibility for city employees and residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the TCF Center, one day after the city began administering the vaccines at the downtown facility.

Duggan opened vaccinations up to any resident 70 or older and any "good neighbor" driver, 65 or older, who accompanies them to the TCF Center, as well as U.S. Postal Service employees who live or work in Detroit and city employees who are working from their regular job site.

The city is continuing to offer vaccines to essential workers including K-12 teachers, childcare workers, police officers and bus drivers.

"Any city of Detroit employee or an employee of a Detroit-related agency, if you are working from your regular job site, you can call starting today and we'll get you in," Duggan said. The city immunized 400 people on Wednesday, 600 on Thursday and said 800 appointments were scheduled Friday, and Duggan added the process was "going very smoothly."

The city's expansion came after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the state would expand vaccinations as of Monday to all state residents 65 or older, to front-line workers and teachers.

Duggan has not followed that policy, noting that one-third of Detroiters who died of the virus last year were over 75. In Detroit, 40,000 people are over 75, and 100,000 others are older than 65, Duggan said. 

The city has received about 8,000 doses and is putting in a request for more next week.

"We don't know how many we're getting until the governor tells us on Monday, and she's at the whims of the federal government...," Duggan said. "A week from Monday, we're not going to be so concerned when Joe Biden's there. We'll see. We're confident we can get through the ones we've scheduled for next week."

The city plans to have 1,000 doses administered each day next week, Duggan said.

"We got a lot of garage space, we can definitely handle 5,000 vaccinations a day, we're just not going to book those until we know the supplies," he said.

The city has been boosting its vaccination call center staffing and expanding the hours of operation after being inundated Monday with more than 120,000 requests for vaccination appointments. 

Precious Milledge, left, and nurse Vinni Hancock work at a drive-thru vaccination center in the basement of the TCF Center in Detroit Wednesday.

Duggan 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.

Some Michigan health systems say they're close to running short of COVID-19 vaccine and have been forced to curtail scheduling vaccination appointments for next week. Michigan received 60,450 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this week and expects 62,400 next week, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Lynn Sutfin.

The city, in partnership with Henry Ford Health System, began deploying the first round of Moderna vaccines during the last week of December. First in line were 1,200 medical first responders who work for the Detroit Fire Department, 30 city health care workers so they can vaccinate others and 450 home health care workers.

Earlier this week, Detroit's Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said the health office in partnership with Wayne State University Medical School's nursing and pharmacy students is slated to vaccinate residents at 60 city senior buildings and 29 homeless shelters.

As of Wednesday, Detroit has reported 27,174 confirmed cases of the virus and has logged 1,735 deaths.

To schedule appointments at the TCF Center garage, call (313) 230-0505 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_