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Michigan Medicine asks patients, employees to seek vaccine elsewhere

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses Michigan Medicine is receiving each week. 

Faced with a shortage in expected COVID-19 vaccines, Michigan Medicine is directing patients, along with University of Michigan employees 65 and older and frontline essential workers, to sign up at local health departments and retail pharmacies to maximize their chance of a vaccination appointment.

Michigan Medicine received its first allotment of COVID-19 vaccines in December.

Kelly Malcom, a spokeswoman for the UM health system, said supplies it is receiving from the state are not sufficient to provide first doses for persons under the Phase 1B priority group, which includes those 75 and over not covered by Phase 1A; federal and state first responders; school and child care staff; corrections staff and other essential health care workers.

“We have the resources to vaccinate around 12,000 people a week but are only receiving doses for (4,000),” Malcom said Thursday. “We recently sent out a bulletin to advise our patients and UM employees we were not giving out any new appointments and they should pursue them at other locations, like county health departments and pharmacies.”

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Malcom said Michigan Medicine would continue to try to serve as many eligible people as possible, and that smaller shipments will be used primarily for second doses for those who are due to receive them, including vaccinated employees at Michigan Medicine's Flint and Dearborn campuses. Established patients will receive invitations automatically "as we move through the vaccine distribution program," said Mary Masson, director of public relations at Michigan Medicine.

Michigan Medicine has distributed a total of 57,308 vaccines as of Thursday and fully vaccinated 23,415 people.

“It’s not just us, I understand shortages are occurring at other hospitals and health departments,” Malcom said. “There have been reports that more vaccines are coming and are being distributed by pharmacies at well.”

State health officials have revised their strategy for distributing COVID-19 vaccine doses with 60% of supplies going to health departments and community centers and the remainder to hospitals such as Michigan Medicine.

“Vaccine providers across the state are working quickly to vaccinate Michiganders within a week of receiving their vaccine allocation,” said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Initial vaccine allocations were based on vaccinating healthcare workers, which led to healthcare systems receiving a majority of the vaccine.”

Sutfin said as Michigan moves into vaccinating other priority groups including 65-plus and frontline essential workers, including pre K-12 teachers, childcare workers and first responders, distribution is shifting to local health departments who are positioned to work with employers to schedule vaccination clinics and host mass vaccination clinics, in some cases supported by Michigan National Guard personnel.

“We also know that our local health departments are well-suited to reach minority and vulnerable populations by going into neighborhoods and partnering with community-based organizations on vaccination efforts,” Sutfin noted. “We are grateful for the work and continued partnership of our healthcare systems as we strive to reach our goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders as quickly as possible, with a focus on equity as well.”

She said the state hopes to vaccinate 70% of people 16 and older by the end of 2021.

"People have to continue to follow safe practices: mask, social distance and not gather in large groups," Sutfin said. "We all know it's hard but it's the only way we are going to beat this." 

Sutfin said the number of doses counties will receive will be based on a social vulnerability index that uses census data to identify and map places where a community may have more difficulty preventing human suffering and financial loss in a disaster.

During the surge of COVID-19 cases in the spring of 2020, areas of Michigan that were most affected also typically had the highest social vulnerability index. These same areas will be prioritized for receiving vaccine while supplies are limited.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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