Detroit expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to new groups of residents

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan announced Wednesday the city is immediately expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to residents age 60 or older with chronic medical conditions.

Residents who qualify include those with cancer, asthma, heart conditions, hypertension, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, pulmonary fibrosis, cardiomyopathy, HIV, liver disease, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, dementia, sickle cell disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks at a press conference at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters in Detroit on Feb. 11, 2021.

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"We have to reach those folks most at risk," Duggan said during a press conference Wednesday at Detroit's Public Safety Headquarters. "The American Heart Association did a study last year for those over 65 and found if you went to the hospital with coronary artery disease, you had a 26% chance of dying, those with hypertension had a 28% chance, diabetes 29% and heart failure 38% chance of dying."

Duggan said the city is making enough progress with the 15,000 doses a week it is receiving.

"If you think about where we're going with this... there is a real chance that by April we could (vaccinate) everyone in the city who has a high risk of dying from COVID and wants a vaccine," Duggan said.

Residents can call for an appointment and let the operator know of the qualifying condition. Residents will be asked to bring a note from a health provider, prescription bottle or insurance or medical record to verify their condition. Appointments will be available starting Friday at the TCF Center garage, Duggan said.

Appointments can be scheduled by calling (313) 230-0505 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"Age without a doubt is the biggest predictor of those who are going to die, but the second biggest predictor is your underlying health condition and the truth is that a 55- or 60-year-old with congestive heart failure is more likely to die of COVID than a 70-year-old who's a walker every day," Duggan said. 

About 7% of Detroiters are vaccinated.

"This is true everywhere in the country, the hospital distribution system being used for COVID vaccines are being done through electronic health records to people with primary care doctors and the Black and Brown communities are not tied into electronic health records at hospitals...," Duggan said, adding that Detroiters should be vaccinated at the same rate. "We're going straight to our residents and I told the president last week I'd like to get up to 25,000... Just because you send vaccines to a hospital in a poor community doesn't mean the neighbors are the ones who get into the hospital."

Biden met with President Joe Biden on Friday in the Oval Office.

A week ago, the city expanded vaccine eligibility to residents with physical and developmental disabilities after receiving hundreds of emails, calls and letters advocating for disabled residents to be prioritized.

The Detroit Health Department is hosting vaccination fairs for Detroiters ages 65 and up inside two of the city's largest churches — Fellowship Chapel on the city's west side and Second Ebenezer Church on the east side — on Saturday.

The effort, coined "Senior Saturdays," is expected to vaccinate about 1,000 seniors. One week from Saturday, the city will be opening vaccination sites in southwest Detroit, Duggan said. 

Vaccination times are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fellowship Chapel and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Second Ebenezer, and can be made by calling (313) 230-0505.

Detroit's latest push to vaccinate its most vulnerable residents comes as the city has detected three cases of the highly contagious new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7. 

As of Tuesday, the city has 29,527 cases of COVID-19, resulting in 1,825 deaths.

The city is focusing on plowing snow from 1,880 miles of residential streets after vaccinations at the TCF Center garage were canceled Tuesday. If there are any residential streets that need to be addressed, residents can use the Improve Detroit App or call Detroit Public Works at (313) 224-0033.

DPW Director Ron Brundidge said they're expecting 1 to 2 more inches of snowfall from Thursday night into Friday, which wouldn't require additional contractors.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_