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Wayne County health official: Contact local hospitals for vaccination appointments

Sarah Rahal Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Wayne County Health Department officials on Tuesday directed elderly residents to contact local hospitals to arrange vaccinations against COVID-19 as the few doses they've received from the state are being reserved for first responders, long-term care staff and other front-line workers.

Dr. Mouhanad Hammami, Wayne County health strategist, told Wayne County commissioners Tuesday that the department has been requesting nearly 5,000 doses of the vaccine for its past three shipments but received far fewer doses.

"The state didn't get what they expected from the federal government, we didn't get what we expected from the state and so forth. You can only distribute what you have," Hammami told commissioners.

The state's largest county, excluding Detroit, has received three shipments of vaccines. Each time, the county requested 4,875 doses, Hammami said. The county received 1,950 doses on Dec. 17; 975 doses on Dec. 29 and 2,925 doses on Monday.

Hammami said Monday's shipment will be exhausted by the middle of next week.

"We need enough for 11,000 (people), as of today. Tomorrow the number is going to get more and more," Hammami told commissioners.

Hammami said while the state is allowing agencies to move to phase 1B, which allows anyone over the age of 65 to be vaccinated, that's not possible in Wayne County. "We cannot move to 1B with the same speed that everybody else is expecting us to," he said.

Ann Paletko, right, wipes her cheek during the funeral for her father, Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko, at St. Linus Church in Dearborn Heights on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. Paletko, who had been mayor since 2004, died from COVID-19 last week.

The county has an estimated 500,000 people eligible for vaccines and 11,000 people registered for vaccines.

Hospitals and health systems currently have the most reliable supply of vaccines for seniors, Hammami said.

"I want to emphasize that anyone 65 and older because this is the contradiction that the state has said, 'Call your health department,' which will do them no good if they call us. In fact, it will put a lot of burden on us because we are going to repeat the same message: You need to go to your health system," Hammami told The Detroit News Monday.

Wayne Co. Deputy Health Director Jennifer Floyd receives the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine on Friday morning, December 18, 2020, at the Wayne County Health Administration Building in Wayne, Mich.

The county is also working with superintendents to survey school districts to determine how many teachers would be willing to get the vaccine to determine future needs, he said.

Hospitals have been overwhelmed by requests for vaccination appointments as well. Beaumont Health tripled its server capacity over the weekend after its website crashed Friday due to heavy demand for COVID-19 vaccines.

The surge in demand occurred after Beaumont notified patients Thursday night that vaccinations would be available to people 65 and older beginning Monday.

Nearly 1 million Beaumont patients have access to myBeaumontChart, an online health portal that connects people with their health records, medical test information and appointments.

Beaumont presently has the ability to vaccinate 3,200 people a day at the Beaumont Service Center in Southfield and has plans to expand to additional sites soon.

Henry Ford Health System said it began reaching out to its existing patients 65 and older Friday afternoon through MyChart, the hospital’s online patient portal and was proactively trying to contact patients who are not part of that system to encourage them to sign up, spokesman John Gillespie said.

For subscribers: Vaccine demand in Michigan is outpacing supplies

Tim Killeen, who chairs the commission's Committee on Health & Human Services, said it wouldn't be a good idea for the county to use its size as a reason to press for more doses of the vaccine.

"You better believe that every jurisdiction is pressing for more vaccines to come to their jurisdiction," Killeen said. "The last thing you want is the number of vaccines that your local jurisdiction receives is in direct relation to the political power of individuals in that jurisdiction. We need to distribute this vaccine without regard for the politics involved."

There are more than 58,000 cases in the county, and an additional 27,000 cases in Detroit.

Excluding Detroit, the county has tallied 1,859 deaths, among them Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko

The cities most impacted include: Dearborn - 7,776 cases, 176 deaths; Livonia - 4,632 cases, 228 deaths; Canton Township - 4,347 cases, 88 deaths; and Dearborn Heights - 3,957 cases, 106 deaths, according to the county's COVID-19 dashboard.

Mayor Mike Duggan announced Tuesday that Detroit is boosting its COVID-19 vaccination call center staffing, expanding hours of operation and urging those not yet eligible to hold tight after being inundated Monday with more than 120,000 requests for appointments.

Detroit is hoping to provide 20,000 coronavirus vaccinations by early February if the state is able to maintain an adequate supply. If additional doses come through, they hope to increase the number of vaccinations to 30,000, the mayor told reporters Tuesday.