Wayne County gets federal help to distribute COVID-19 vaccine at nine sites

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Wayne County — Wayne County is getting $36 million in federal funding to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine at nine community-based vaccination sites. But just how quickly those sites will open depends on how many doses of vaccine the county gets from the state to administer. 

"As we get more vaccine on a regular and consistent basis, we'll be able to plan and open up sites," Wayne County spokesman Bill Nowling told The News. "We really appreciate the money and we're going to put it to good use, but it's all dependent on the vaccine and how readily available it becomes."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division of the Michigan State Police announced Wednesday that the funding is being provided to the county under the federal disaster declaration that went into effect last spring. 

Teacher assistant at the Berkley School District Sylvia Boyd of Detroit gets her COVID-19 vaccine from Meijer pharmacist Brittany Wilkinson. Meijer hosted a vaccine clinic at Ford Field exclusively for educators and education staff in Detroit on March 1, 2021.

"This expedited grant funding will help Wayne County and the state of Michigan end this pandemic and expand availability of COVID-19 vaccines to individuals who most need them," Kevin Sligh, acting regional administrator, FEMA Region 5, said in a Wednesday news release. 

Nowling said right now the county is operating two permanent vaccination sites, at Schoolcraft College in Livonia and at the Henry Ford Community College campus in Taylor. About two dozen pop-up vaccination clinics have been held and the county has supplied doses of the vaccine to the cities of Livonia and Dearborn, which have administered vaccines. 

The locations of the additional COVID vaccination sites are still being determined. 

The FEMA funding, Nowling said, is to aid the county when it is able to reach the maximum vaccination capacity and when shots can be offered to residents 16 and up. 

"We think that when we're up and running and we have enough vaccine that we'll have nine sites," he said. 

Nowling said this week the county received about 14,000 first doses of vaccine. At the current capacity of its facilities, the county could handle about double that amount, he said. The goal would be to add sites that could administer 2,000 to 2,500 vaccines per day at each location.

The federal funds, to open and staff the sites, have to be used by mid-June, he said. 

"Even though the state is opening up priorities faster and more people are eligible to schedule, everything depends on how much vaccine there is," Nowling added. 

As of Wednesday, Wayne County has administered 337,237 doses of the vaccine, 107,000 of which were administered by the county's Health, Human and Veterans Services Department. 

The funding is being provided under FEMA's Public Assistance Program, which provides dollars to local governments and eligible nonprofits for costs incurred for emergency actions taken to protect lives. The funding award serves as an advance payment to Wayne County for eligible reimbursable costs related to the distribution of the vaccine, officials noted. 

“This funding will help Michigan continue its efforts to provide these safe and effective vaccines to Michigan residents,” said Capt. Kevin Sweeney, deputy state director of Emergency Management and commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division. “We appreciate FEMA’s partnership and continued support in combatting this pandemic.”