Whitmer set to prioritize nursing homes during vaccine booster rollout

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive Wednesday that orders state departments to begin preparing for the Sept. 20 distribution of booster shots, with a priority placed on delivery of the shots to long-term care facilities. 

The state has been administering booster shots since mid-August to immunocompromised individuals but will expand the injections Sept. 20 to all residents who are at least eight months out from receiving a second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The initial boosters for the general public set to begin Sept. 20 will go to long-term care facilities, Whitmer said Wednesday. 

“With booster doses on the horizon, we are reactivating our close partnerships with local health departments and pharmacies to get shots in arms as quickly as possible," the governor said in a statement. "We know that this virus still disproportionately affects older Michiganders, which is why I’m also prioritizing booster shots for residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said Aug. 18 that people could maximize their protection by getting a booster shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines eight months out from their last dose. 

The state has an "ample supply" of the vaccines to accommodate the booster shots and any newly vaccinated individuals, Whitmer said in her statement.  

"For those who have not received their first dose, I urge you to do so as soon as possible," said Elizabeth Hertel, director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "The vaccine remains our best protection against the virus and it is the way we are going to end the pandemic together.” 

As of Aug. 24, at least 60% of Michigan residents over the age of 12 had received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The elderly have been hit hardest by the pandemic, with roughly 69% of the state's 20,161 deaths related to COVID-19 occurring among people over the age of 70, according to state health department data.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com