Detroit to offer third dose of COVID-19 vaccine this week

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city's largest vaccination site, the TCF Center, will reopen its drive-thru operations beginning Tuesday to offer a third shot of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to residents who are immunocompromised, Mayor Mike Duggan announced.

Duggan said Detroit will offer the booster shot following new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Late Friday the CDC approved the use of third shots of Pfizer's and Modera's COVID-19 vaccines to Americans who may be more vulnerable to the virus. The one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine has not been approved for an additional booster dose. 

Vulnerable patients have been shown to maintain a high level of immunity against the virus after receiving the third shot.

"Pfizer did a study that showed the vaccine slips to 84% effective after six months," Duggan said during a Monday press conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.

"We don't know what's going to happen at 10 months, 11 months, 12 months… we aren't there yet, but that trajectory is a little bit concerning," he said. "When it drops to 84%, now you've got more than a one in seven chance of getting it."

The good news, he says, is that the vaccine continues to offer a high degree of protection against serious COVID-19 and that 95% to 98% of all Americans hospitalized for COVID are unvaccinated. Meanwhile, residents with even a mild case of COVID could transmit the disease to others and children.

The city has 30,000 doses available of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to offer residents who are immunocompromised and who have received the first two initial doses. More than 225,000 residents in the city are vaccinated, Duggan said.

Eligible residents include those with organ transplants, those with a disease affecting their immune system, those taking medications affecting their immune system and others with compromised immune systems. Those unsure should call their doctor to ask.

Securing a booster shot will operate the same way initial vaccinations do, Duggan said. Call (313) 230-0505 to make an appointment. No prescription is needed.

"The CDC wants to make this as bureaucracy-free as possible. If you call us up and say your immune system is compromised and you want the third shot, we will book that… no one is going to ask you for a letter from your doctor or what your situation is," he said.

More sites and home visits are expected to be added in the coming weeks.

Duggan said it's necessary to reopen the TCF Center because there's a high transmission rate of COVID-19 hitting unvaccinated residents.

"It's a matter of time before this virus mutates and we're talking about a different kind of variant, and we will again say the best thing you can do for yourself and your friends and family is to get vaccinated," he said.

He spoke of heartbreaking situations of intensive care units filled with children happening nationally.

"There is a good degree of likelihood that Florida's July could be Michigan's November… Watch what is happening in the south right now. In Lousiana, their intensive care units … are saying they're not going to have a spot for your child until another child dies," he said. "This is preventable by getting vaccinated."

Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said Detroit is experiencing an increase in hospitalizations and cases.

"About 42% of the city has received the vaccine, but I'm really concerned for those who haven't. They remain unprotected, they are unsafe. And if we had more people to get the vaccine, we would get to community immunity, which is 70%" she said. "The risk level of transmission, according to the CDC, has increased from moderate to substantial and I imagine by next week, we will be to the high level of risk."

Testing is also available at the Joseph Walker Williams Center at 8431 Rosa Parks Blvd.

City officials are also encouraging residents to continue wearing masks indoors in high-transmission areas to help prevent the spread of the virus and its variants.

Dr. Dorry Segev, director of Epidemiology Research Group in Organ Transplantation at Johns Hopkins University, said with the standard two-dose regimen of the mRNA vaccines, half of transplant patients don't produce any detectable antibody response and if they do, it's generally much lower.

“In addition, clinical protection for vaccinated transplant patients is much lower: a fully vaccinated transplant patient has an 82-fold higher risk of getting a breakthrough infection, and a 485-fold higher risk of getting a breakthrough infection associated with hospitalization or death, than the general fully vaccinated public," she said in a statement.

“Other immunosuppressed populations also have decreased responses to the vaccines, although the amount of the decrease varies by the medications they take and the condition they have,” Segev stated. 

As of Friday, the state had administered 9.8 million of 12 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine distributed. About 4.9 million people in the state are fully vaccinated.

In Detroit, vaccination rates lag. About 41.4% of residents so far have received one dose, according to the city's COVID-19 dashboard. That's compared with 66% in outer-Wayne County, 58% in Macomb County and 69% in Oakland County, 68% in Washtenaw County and 59.3% of the state of Michigan.

Less than 1% of people who are fully vaccinated test positive, according to the state's metrics.

The state has had 919,133 cases resulting in 20,011 deaths during the same time period. In Detroit, there have been 52,852 confirmed cases resulting in 2,307 deaths from the virus since March 2020.

To ramp up vaccinations Detroit is offering $50 "good neighbor" incentives and walk-up vaccination clinics at the TCF Center, Farewell Recreational Center, Northwest Activities Center and the Samaritan Center.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_