Duggan: Detroit's COVID-19 vaccinations will continue despite vaccine shortage

Detroit — Detroit residents can still schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments but some existing appointments are being changed after the city received fewer doses, and a different brand, of vaccine than it expected.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Tuesday Michigan had a shortfall of about 50,000 vaccines and "everybody is having a tough time this week."

Detroit received 6,000 doses this week but had hoped for 9,000 to 10,000, he said. The city also anticipated receiving Pfizer's vaccine but instead received Moderna's.

The differences between the two vaccines are the time between the first and second doses and the freezer temperature they have to be stored at. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dosage three weeks later, Moderna requires the second shot four weeks later.

People scheduled for first doses Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the TCF Center garage can keep their appointments, Duggan said.

Because the city will be administering Moderna shots, those who have appointments this week will have the second dose delayed one week. Residents are encouraged not to call the center and will be reminded during their appointments this week of when they need to return.

A resident who will receive the shot on:

  • Wednesday, the new second dose date is Feb. 17
  • Thursday, new second dose date is Feb. 18
  • Friday, new second dose date is Feb. 19
Vaccine appointments change slightly as the city switches from Pfizer to Moderna.

The state received requests for 444,306 doses of the vaccine for this week, but only received 258,100 doses this week from the federal government to allocate; 117,850 first doses and 140,250-second doses, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the state health department.

"Not all locations receive as much vaccine as they request, which is why we have requested additional vaccine from the federal government," Sutfin said in an email to The Detroit News Tuesday.

The city has enough vaccine to continue to process 1,000 people per day, he said.

"We've got this under control. All you've got to do is show up at your regularly scheduled time and we will reschedule you on the spot," Duggan said. "We are going to lead the country on efficiencies on vaccinations."

The TCF Center has scheduled 12,000 appointments for vaccinations. About 8,000 are seniors and good neighbors, 3,300 are teachers, school and childcare employees, 700 city employees, and 400 U.S. Postal Service workers. Additionally, several thousand vaccinations have been given at homeless shelters and to first responders and DDOT bus drivers, Duggan said.

Duggan extended vaccine eligibility to federal and state workers who are working in the city.

The city will continue scheduling residents only 70 and older and any "good neighbor" driver, 65 or older, who accompanies them to the center, a higher age threshold than elsewhere in Michigan. Essential workers including K-12 teachers and childcare workers are also eligible.

"I want to go to age 65, but I can't do it until we know that we're getting 10,000 (doses) a week," Duggan said. "Otherwise, if we did it today, all that's going to happen is it'll overrun the phone system, and you won't be able to get appointments, because we don't know yet... I will not put our seniors in a position where... we're going to raise expectations that we can't meet."

Henry Ford Health System and the Wayne County Public Health Department said Monday they were delaying some COVID-19 vaccinations after receiving fewer doses than expected this week. The Washtenaw County Health Department also scaled back planned vaccination clinics. 

The federal government also informed states last week that it would release a stockpile of vaccine held in reserve to provide second doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. But later, federal officials said the stockpile was exhausted and states shouldn't expect a windfall, the Washington Post was first to report.

Duggan said he anticipates more truthful information on vaccine distribution following President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

"The announcement that Pfizer vaccines were going to be doubled, and then a week later, the feds say 'Oh sorry, they're not' when everybody in the country started planning for this is the worst of all wars," Duggan said.

"I think 85% of what we received is in our in people's arms right now. And that's a ratio, we are going to stay at," Duggan said.

The city has recorded 27,563 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,751 deaths as of Tuesday.