Michigan falls short of goal as Ford Field vaccine clinic nears end

Ariana Taylor Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

The mass vaccine clinic at Ford Field is coming to a close late Monday after falling about 60,000 doses short of its goal of vaccinating 335,000 people and providing the vast majority of shots to people from outside the city. 

Just 7% of nearly 275,000 shots administered by the clinic were given to Detroit residents, according to site-collected data released by the state of Michigan.

Nearly all the recipients received the two-shot Pfizer vaccine — along with 1,062 doses of the Johnson & Johnson — at the site and four mobile clinics with the help of Wayne County, Meijer, the city of Detroit, Henry Ford Health System and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Protect Michigan Commission COVID-19 student ambassador volunteer Aidan Shoresh, left, gets a hug from his mother, Dr. Betty Chu, VP and associate chief clinical officer, chief quality officer for Henry Ford Health System, after she gives him the vaccination.

A drop-off was apparent in early May. Injections plummeted from 4,616 on May 3 to 293 vaccinations on May 6. On Mother's Day, 109 doses were put in arms.

"Our goal was to maximize our efforts to reach as many people as possible — COVID cases were surging in Michigan at the time, it was a race to save as many lives as possible," Steven Rockoff, medical director of the site, said during a Monday Zoom press conference. "Out of 32 of these federal vaccination sites, we are one of the top performers for some shots in arms administered nationwide."

Southeast Michigan residents — including Detroiters — accounted for 95% or 257,346 of the vaccinations at Ford Field, said Kerry Ebersole Singh, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Protect Michigan Commission. She added that 331 doses were wasted or spoiled during the clinic.

Oakland County residents received the most doses at 43%, outer-Wayne County residents accounted for 23.5%, Macomb accounted for 11% and Washtenaw accounted for 8%.

The largest age group served at the site were 30-39-year-olds, followed by 20-29-year-olds, and 40-49-year-olds.

Any doses that aren't used by 8:30 p.m. Monday will be reallocated to state vaccination sites, mobile clinics and rural areas over the next four weeks, officials said. Vaccines were given to approximately 14,000 12-year to 17-year-olds either at the site or a mobile clinic.

Ford Field's mass vaccination clinic opened at the end of March with a goal of 6,000 shots in arms per day, every day, for eight weeks.

During the first week, nearly 90,000 people registered for the site. Overwhelmed with interest, the domed stadium booked 14,000 appointments in the first four days. During that time, the recipients were overwhelmingly White, about 73%; 14% were Black or African American, 5% were Asian and 4.7% were Latinx.

People with addresses in 70 of Michigan's 83 counties received doses at the site.

As of Friday, White patients remained the majority at 57%, 13% were Black or African American, 17% were Asian, 6% were Latinx and 4% identified as other.

"Vaccines are now widely available across our state but demand is slowing. Some people are reluctant to get the shots," Singh said.

In an appeal to increase doses to Detroiters, the site offered walk-in options, free parking and mobile clinics.

People can enter and exit through Ford Field's Gate G off St. Antoine Street, for the vaccine clinic.

In Detroit, vaccination rates are lagging as about 33.7% of residents have received one dose, according to the city's COVID-19 dashboard. That's compared with 59% in outer-Wayne County, 52% in Macomb County and 62% in Oakland and Washtenaw counties.

The Protect Michigan Commission also released results from a new statewide survey about Michiganians' perceptions on COVID-19 vaccinations.

In the survey, over 70% of Michigan residents said they've been vaccinated or plan to be. However, regions such as Flint and Saginaw, Wayne, Washtenaw and Monroe counties showed strong resistance to the vaccine, according to the survey. More than 64% of unvaccinated residents said they rejected the vaccine or were undecided.

"We're going to use this data to help inform our decisions moving forward as we transition from large-scale clinics and look to develop new partnerships that have a hyperlocal focus, including grassroots activities," Singh said. "We're still marching on our mission to get 70% of the state vaccinated."