Wayne County to get more vaccine, but it's still not enough for essential workers

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Wayne County will get nearly twice the amount of COVID-19 vaccine it now has on hand next week, but the supply "remains insufficient" to expedite the first dose of the vaccine for high-priority essential workers, officials said Saturday.

The state of Michigan informed Wayne County on Friday that it will receive 8,375 doses of the vaccine next week, an increase from the 4,350 doses of the vaccine the county had on hand this week to administer a first dose to priority workers. Wayne County has been working to vaccinate educators, health providers and other essential workers. 

The boost in doses comes after County Executive Warren Evans met with state officials to demand the county receive its fair share of the vaccine available, the county noted in a news release.

Inkster firefighter Richard Burden receives the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine shot administered by Nnenna Wachuku on December 22, 2020, at the Wayne County Health Department Administrative building in Wayne.

“I am fighting to ensure Wayne County receives the number of doses it needs based on a fair and equitable formula that reflects our population, the higher social vulnerability of many of our residents, and our status as Michigan’s most diverse county,” Evans said. “I appreciate that the state is working to distribute a very limited vaccine supply to the entire state, but I think more work is needed to ensure a reliable and equitable supply.”

Evans requested a meeting with health officials and members of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's staff on Thursday after the county argued that Wayne County's Public Health Division had received fewer doses of the vaccine than health offices in less populous counties. The shortage of vaccines, Evans has noted, has slowed efforts of Wayne County to meet the eligible groups under the state's distribution plan.

Bill Nowling, a spokesman for the county, said there are about 10,000 health care industry workers waiting for their initial dose of the vaccine under phase 1A the state's plan and about 20,000 teachers under phase 1B.

Under an agreement between Wayne County and local health systems, county residents 65 and older are being vaccinated through those health systems. The agreement prioritizes seniors while the county's public health division focuses on health providers, educators and essential workers. 

Beginning Tuesday, Wayne County will begin vaccinating K-12 teachers and education workers at its vaccination sites at the VisTaTech Center at Schoolcraft College and at Wayne County Community College's Downriver Campus in Taylor. 

Teachers and education workers will be contacted by their school districts or school administrators and informed of their scheduled time to receive the vaccine.

In addition to the 8,375 first doses being received next week by the county, Another 2,935 residents in Wayne County will receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The county will receive both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in next week’s shipment.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. is boosting deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall.

A nationwide shortage hampered Michigan's efforts to receive and distribute the vaccine.

Whitmer has proposed a $5.6 billion COVID-19 relief plan that she's calling on the Legislature to pass. The plan includes $90 million that Congress appropriated for vaccine distribution and $575 million to expand COVID-19 testing, tracing and lab capacity in Michigan.

Hundreds of members of the Michigan National Guard are being deployed to expand COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts in the state. 

In Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan said The Detroit Health Department's supply of the vaccine is expected to triple this upcoming week when the city receives about 15,000 doses, up from 5,000 this past week.

Detroit is administering the shots at the TCF Center downtown. The city is expected to identify a second location for vaccinating residents and essential city workers in the coming weeks.