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Oakland County officials detail plans to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac - Oakland County Executive David Coulter and health officials reported Thursday the county has administered "99.9%" of the doses of vaccine it's received to residents since December and expect to “ramp up” vaccinations as distribution increases.

Coulter said of the 41,350 doses the state distributed to the county since Dec. 17, 41,323 are in people’s arms, including residents at 20 long-term care facilities in the county. 

The remaining 27 doses will be used by health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities still without vaccinations, county spokesperson William Mullan said.

(R-L): Oakland County Executive David Coulter addresses the media as Sean Carlson, deputy county executive and Royal Oak Brewery owner Drew Ciora, listen.

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“We have the capacity to do 20,000 (vaccinations) a week – we did 7,000 this past week,” Coulter said. “We are expecting to do much more as supplies become available.”

Coulter said Oakland County has partnered with Meijer, Pontiac-based Honor Community Health and Henry Ford West Bloomfield hospital, all of which have set up their own registration and “Save-Your-Spot” programs for people awaiting vaccinations. All partners must agree to administer 90% of the vaccine the county distributes to them within a week. He said the county has distributed 1,950 doses to Henry Ford, 975 doses to Meijer and 300 doses to Honor Community Health.

Honor Community Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nikhil Hemady said Thursday it also received 400 doses directly from the federal government in the past two weeks. Honor is vaccinating group homes and Pontiac clients with doses distributed to them by the county health department.

“Patients have been elated and excited for the chance to get the vaccine,” Hemady said.

Coulter added he is excited by President Joseph Biden choosing Michigan as one of his first stops outside of the nation’s Capitol. Biden is scheduled to visit Pfizer's vaccine manufacturing plant in Portage Friday.

“We hope his visit to the Pfizer facility in Kalamazoo, where the first Covid vaccines were produced, is a sign that we’re on the cusp of a substantial increase in distribution,” Coulter said.

The quicker the county receives more doses of vaccine, the faster it can dramatically distribute them, officials said.

“Oakland County Health Division has the capacity to administer up to 20,000 doses of COVID vaccine a week on our own,” County Health Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford said. “Once adequate supply is available and we receive more than 20,000 doses a week, it will take this public-private partnership to ensure we can vaccinate residents quickly. We are establishing the provider relationships and infrastructure now, so we are ready when that moment comes.”

Oakland County has recorded 73,290 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,955 deaths during the pandemic.

Among vaccine performance indicators for the county health division highlighted:

- Oakland County’s Save Your Spot list, where residents can let the Health Division staff know they are interested in receiving the COVID vaccine, has nearly a half-million registrations so far.

- The county has more than 70 long-term care facilities that were not covered by the federal contract with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to vaccinate long-term care staff and residents. The Health Division has vaccinated staff and residents at 20 of the facilities utilizing its limited supply of vaccine.

- The Health Division has offered appointments to more than 14,000 Oakland County teachers out of about 23,000 who have signed up for the Save Your Spot list.

- There are still thousands of Phase 1A individuals who still need to be vaccinated, which include medical workers and residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

The state is following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy to target more doses of vaccine to communities with the most vulnerable populations. The policy has caused concern with some elected officials who feel their communities have been shortened in vaccine distribution.

“I will fight for every dose we can get,” Coulter said. “There have been some weeks that we didn’t get what we expected and we have had discussions with the state and the governor about that.

“But we all know there inequities in our communities and some people are older, not as healthy or economically advantaged or have access to as many health systems as we may have in Oakland County,” Coulter said. “We have pockets of residents in our county that need to be reached.

“I don’t have any problem with addressing that,” Coulter said. “I believe that is the appropriate thing to do.

“Equitable distribution is among one of the big challenges we are facing every week,” Coulter said.

For more information about Oakland County’s Save Your Spot list or COVID vaccines, click on OaklandCountyVaccine.com.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319