Detroit expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine, expects doses to triple next week

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday said Detroit will triple the number of COVID-19 vaccinations it gives beginning next week and is opening up eligibility for shots to city residents 65 or older and all workers in health care fields. 

The Detroit Health Department's supply of the coronavirus vaccine is increasing from the 5,000 doses it received this week to 15,000 next week, he said. 

"It has been a very intense couple of weeks," Duggan said. "I have been lobbying very heavily to unchoke the supply chain. You can call, you can get an appointment, and we are going to start to see huge crowds."

Duggan lowered the eligibility age to 68 or older last week but stressed Monday that Detroit couldn't drop it to 65 until the city got closer to 10,000 doses of the vaccine each week. The state has been struggling with a shortage of doses.

The city next week will also vaccinate people who live or work in Detroit and are employed in any health care setting. Those include dental, optometry, chiropractic and physical therapy as well as veterinary clinics.

The mayor noted Thursday that the TCF Center downtown is ready to accommodate a higher volume of vaccination appointments.

In the coming weeks, Duggan said, the city will have to identify a second location to administer doses to manage the demand for residents coming to get their first dose of the vaccine and others who are in need of their second booster shot.

"We're going to have to figure out another site and we're very much into those discussions right now as to how we would do that," he said. 

The city has received 18,450 doses of vaccine and as of Wednesday evening had administered 81% of them, or 14,933. About 5,700 residents over age 68 and "good neighbor" drivers have received doses, as have about 2,000 health care providers, 2,000 first responders and 2,500 teachers and school staff. 

The city was already vaccinating essential workers in childcare centers, K-12 schools, clergy, mortuary staff, postal employees as well as federal and state employees working in the city. 

The city, the mayor said, has 10,000 appointments booked in the next month. 

Detroit's Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said her staff is going to boost outreach efforts to the city's most vulnerable. 

The city in partnership with the Wayne State Medical School has vaccinated 937 residents and staff at 10 homeless shelters and 10 senior apartment buildings over the last two weeks. 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks about tripling the number of weekly vaccinations and making all Detroiters age 65 and up eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the TCF Center during a news conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters in Detroit on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021.

"Now that we have more vaccine, this means we can expand our efforts," she said.

Next week, they intend to vaccinate 1,000 vulnerable Detroiters, Fair said.

As of Thursday, the city has recorded 28,557 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,788 deaths. 

There are 80 operators fielding calls from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to schedule vaccination appointments at (313) 230-0505. Beginning Monday, the city will be administering vaccines three additional hours per day. Formerly, shots were given from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Now, vaccinations will take place from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday the U.S. is stepping up deliveries to hard-pressed states in the next few weeks and expects there will be enough doses to vaccinate 300 Americans by the end of the summer or early fall. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed a $5.6 billion COVID-19 relief plan that she's calling on the Legislature to pass. The plan includes $90 million that Congress appropriated for vaccine distribution and $575 million to expand COVID-19 testing, tracing and lab capacity in Michigan.

As of Wednesday, more than 1.47 million doses have been distributed in Michigan and 802,106 have been administered, according to the state's data tracker.

Hundreds of members of the Michigan National Guard are being deployed to expand COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts in the state.