13K vaccinated in first three days at Ford Field, mobile sites; 72% White, 14% Black

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Michigan residents are traveling from near and far to secure their dose at the Ford Field mass vaccination clinic in hopes of returning to some normalcy.

The clinic opened Wednesday, and through Friday 13,100 people received a vaccine dose either at Ford Field or through mobile vaccination clinics, an average of 4,367 per day. The state's goal is 6,000 per day.

Invitations have been going out to urge people to book a vaccine appointment; 14,000 appointments were scheduled in the first four days, spokesman Mike Nowlin said.

At least 5,000 doses will be available at Ford Field each day and another 1,000 through mobile clinics working with four local health departments.

Luca Valadares and Shaurya Tiwari, both 19 and University of Michigan students, traveled from Ann Arbor Saturday with a group of friends to get the vaccine Saturday, March 27, 2021.

FEMA has restricted press from inside the stadium. But people leaving after getting their shot said the process is quick and efficient.

"It was very smooth and amazingly simple," said Jennifer Burt, 54, of Novi. "My daughter pre-registered and had an earlier appointment and we just joined on to her appointment a half-hour before showing up. Our family of four all got vaccinated within 45 minutes."

Burt, who always worked remotely from home, said it's been nice having her children home but "it's time to return to normal."

To those who are hesitant, she says, "Just do it. It's going to be like this for a while until more people get vaccinated, but hopefully, by doing so, we have a little more freedom."

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, of those who received a vaccine in Detroit:

  • 72.3% were White
  • 13.8% were Black or African American 
  • 4.9% were Asian
  • 4.7% were Latinx
  • 3.2% were other 
  • 1% were American Indian or Alaskan Native 

Henry Ford Health System's Dr. Usamah (Sam) Mossallam, who is medical director of the Ford Field vaccine site, told The Detroit News Wednesday that the focus is trying to get into urban communities, as well as Detroit, which was the most hard-hit city by the first wave of the pandemic.

"This is a way to actually just show people, come on in. We're in the middle of the city trying to get folks of color, trying to get vulnerable populations, trying to get the Latin American population," he said.

For 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 goes to hospitals, health departments and pharmacies, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said last week.

The Ford Field vaccination site is a collaboration of the state, Wayne County, Meijer, the city, Henry Ford Health System and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

At the request of FEMA, 220 Department of Defense military medical and support staff will serve at Ford Field.

Luca Valadares and Shaurya Tiwari, both 19 and University of Michigan students, traveled from Ann Arbor Saturday with a group of friends to get the vaccine.

"We had previously registered when the site first opened and booked our appointments Wednesday. It was very smooth and efficient," Tiwari said.

Both the students said they had medical conditions and feared variant B.1.1.7. which has turned their campus life upside down.

B.1.1.7. originated in Washtenaw County after a Michigan student traveled from the United Kingdom. There are nearly 1,000 cases of the variant in Michigan, the second-most in the country behind Florida. 

"Cases have been going down within the past two weeks and things are more under control on campus than at the beginning of the semester," Valadares said. "UM Medical gets a lot of vaccines but they're nowhere near as advanced as Ford Field. I thought it would be disorganized because it's at a stadium but now having gone through the process, seeing how simple it was, I don't see why others are hesitant."

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.

On Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services put a call out for any adult that could show up for a walk-up appointment within two hours, could secure a vaccine dose.

The state health department said no doses were wasted Thursday following the impromptu walk-up appeal. Officials declined to further comment on what led to the surplus in doses.

How to book an appointment

Any Michigan resident who is currently eligible, those 50 years and older or those 16 and older with disabilities or medical conditions, 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.

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.

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

Starting April 5 the state is expecting to expand eligibility to include all Michigan residents 16 and up.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_