Ford Field to distribute more than 300K doses of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
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Detroit — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other officials gathered at Ford Field Thursday to highlight Michigan's largest single-site vaccination effort, which is expected to administer more than 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine beginning next week.

The COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic is set to open Wednesday. During the next eight weeks, the site is expected to distribute 335,000 doses in addition to the state's allocation from the federal government that is going to hospitals and health departments and pharmacies, Whitmer said.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks about the mass vaccination site at Ford Field on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

"That's 6,000 extra shots a day," she said, adding the state surpassed 3 million doses administered this week.

Whitmer thanked volunteers, partners and medical teams and said she's thrilled the state was chosen as one of the first federal vaccination sites.

"We are so thrilled with President (Joe) Biden's leadership in the White House and the ambitious goal 100 million in 100 days already achieved well into the third month of his administration," she said, adding there's a realistic goal of families and friends being together for the Fourth of July.

Vaccination stations are set on the concourse level at Ford Field on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

"This is the key to our ultimate success," she said. "We all need to get vaccinated and encourage our loved ones and friends and coworkers, neighbors. We are in the fourth quarter in this fight. It's not over yet."

Whitmer was escorted from the stadium by security and did not take questions from reporters.

The Pfizer vaccine will be offered for the first three weeks and returning patients will also receive the second dose during the fourth, fifth and sixth weeks of operation. The site will administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during the last two weeks, officials said.

Vaccination stations are set on the concourse level at Ford Field on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

Less than 24 hours after online registration for Ford Field opened Monday, more than 40,000 people have been slotted to get doses and by Thursday morning, 65,000 people have been registered, Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes said.

"Those numbers are very encouraging," Keyes said, adding representatives will be calling Thursday afternoon to schedule the first set of appointments. "Answer your phone," he added.

Meijer has administered more than 225,000 COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan and 350,000 to people in the Midwest.

Members of the news media are spaced out in compliance with social distancing during a news conference at Ford Field during the announcement of the mass vaccination for COVID-19 on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

"We've been able to do that by leveraging an online registration system that allowed us to register more than 1.8 billion people and are excited to bring that technology, as well as our pharmacy and IT teams to support the state of Michigan and FEMA in this critical effort here at Ford Field," Keyes said.

Eligible residents who have already signed up with Meijer will need to register a second time for Ford Field. People who register can choose the first appointment that becomes available, either in a store or at Ford Field, Keyes said.

Detroit Lions President and CEO Rod Wood said this past season wasn't the same without the fans and they're eager to get back to normal. 

The site is supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Henry Ford Health System is providing medical oversight. It will operate seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. through mid-May.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said with the help of FEMA, Meijer, Henry Ford Health System, Wayne County and the city of Detroit, the Ford Field clinic will distribute 6,000 doses a day.

At least 5,000 will be administered daily on-site at Ford Field and 1,000 will be distributed through mobile clinics working with four local health departments, said Gilchrist, chair of the state's Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities.

"Because of the task force, 1,000 vaccines will be allocated from this site and literally take vaccines to people in communities in southeast Michigan," he said.

Vaccination stations are set on the concourse level at Ford Field on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

Meijer plans to focus on sending those invitations to people based on the state's social vulnerability index to vaccinate those most vulnerable in Detroit, which is the hardest-hit city in Michigan, as well as in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties.

"At the start of the pandemic, Detroit was one of America's epicenters for cases and deaths and as a Detroiter, I've felt this personally having said goodbye to 27 people due to this virus," Gilchrist said. "But Michiganders are tough. We come together... Today here at Ford Field becomes a symbol of hope."

Kevin Sligh Sr., FEMA Region 5 Acting Regional Administrator, said the site wouldn't be possible without every level of government working toward a common goal. At the request of FEMA, 220 Department of Defense military medical and support staff will deploy Friday to Michigan to support Ford Field.

"My grandmother, mother, my twin sister, my uncle, and several cousins contracted COVID-19. We were lucky, but it made me think as an African American, to really think hard to get the vaccine," Sligh said. "I chose to live. We all need to make the choice. We all need to get beyond the pandemic."

How to register

Any Michigan resident who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services vaccine prioritization guidance can fill out a registration form for an appointment online at clinic.meijer.com/register/CL2021.

Eligible residents can also text "EndCOVID" to 75049 and select the Ford Field location or call the health department hotline at (888) 535-6136 and press 1. For those unable to text or access the internet, the call center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m Saturday and Sunday.

Vaccination stations are set on the concourse level at Ford Field on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

After completing the forms, people who have registered will receive an invitation either by phone or text later when it’s their turn to schedule the appointment. Vaccine appointments will be scheduled a few days in advance, officials said.

Residents 50 years and older with medical conditions, along with their caregivers and guardians of children with special needs, are eligible now. 

Starting Monday, vaccine eligibility will extend to residents ages 16 and older with disabilities or medical conditions and by April 5 the state is expecting to expand eligibility to include all Michigan residents age 16 and up.

Henry Ford Health System President and CEO Wright Lassiter III said he's worried that cases are on the rise and as the weather warms up, people might let their guard down.

"Last Monday to this Monday we saw a 27% increase in the number of in-patient cases in our hospitals," he said. "I'm hopeful it's a small bump and it doesn't end up being another significant surge, our third or fourth across the country."

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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