Michigan, Whitmer want doctors to enroll as COVID-19 vaccine providers

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
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Lansing — The state of Michigan is asking all primary care physicians to enroll as vaccine providers in an effort to expand vaccinations across the state as children ages 12-15 become eligible. 

The call to primary care physicians expands vaccine administration efforts that have so far largely been the purview of community vaccination clinics and pharmacies.

On Wednesday afternoon, an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must now sign off on the recommendation before it becomes final.

Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Wednesday the state wanted to make the process "as simple as possible for doctors" and, by extension, for individuals and families seeking the vaccine.

"I’m asking all parents today to take this virus seriously and take your child to get vaccinated,” Khaldun said.

The Michigan State Medical Society said Wednesday the effort to include the state's primary care physicians is a "welcome and promising decision."

"Michigan physicians have long advocated for involving our internists, family physicians and pediatricians in the COIVD vaccine process because these are the offices where people most often go to receive their vaccinations," society President Dr. Pino Colone said. "Trust and confidence exist within the long-standing relationships that patients establish with their primary care physicians." 

CVS Health said it was already scheduling vaccine appointment for those ages 12 to 15 years old at its nearly 70 pharmacies across Michigan starting Thursday.

“Parental or legal guardian consent is required, and children must be accompanied by an adult,” CVS regional spokesman Charlie Rice-Minoso said in a Wednesday statement.

Patients are encouraged to schedule an appointment online at cvs.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. But walk-ins also accepted, he said. 

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use for children 12 and up. The state is waiting on a "final sign-off" from the CDC before administering it to the younger age group. 

"If and when the CDC committee signs off, and we expect that very soon, we will begin administering vaccines to Michiganders 12 to 15 so they can be safe from COVID-19 as well," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

"I encourage all parents with children in this group to have a conversation with your family doctor about the safe, effective vaccine as soon as possible," she said.  

Vaccinations for younger individuals will likely help to decrease missed school days or athletic events due to quarantine, as well as protect more children against the virus, Khaldun said. 

"Kids are not immune to COVID-19," the chief medical executive said. "We've seen many outbreaks among schools and school sports."

As of Monday, 55% of the state's residents over the age of 16 had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Under Whitmer's Vacc to Normal plan, the state's meeting of the 55% benchmark means office workers can return to in-person work starting May 24. 

Under the vaccination plan, the state will lift gathering and face mask orders two weeks after it hits a 70% vaccination benchmark of one dose or more. 

Michigan continues to lead the nation in new case rates, with 253 cases per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, Khaldun said. But the state's numbers have gradually decreased over the past four weeks.

Additionally, the seven-day average percentage of COVID-19 tests bringing positive results has dropped from 11% to 9%.

About 11.8% of hospital beds are filled with COVID-19 patients, Khaldun said.

The decreasing numbers, Whitmer said, are proof that the state had "bent the curve."

"Every day, we're getting closer to putting this pandemic behind us," Whitmer said. "The way to get there is to vaccinate as many Michiganders who are eligible as quickly as possible."

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Sarah Rahal contributed.

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