What you should know about Detroit’s COVID-19 vaccination plan

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Denise Fair, Detroit’s chief public health officer, vaccinated in December, said residents who live in senior buildings or homeless shelters will be prioritized. (Courtesy photo)

Detroit received its first batch of coronavirus vaccines and is now coordinating with state and local officials to distribute the two-part inoculation. The city is creating a call center and says it plans to vaccinate 20,000 Detroiters in the next month.

The city was given 2,000 doses last month of the recently-approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which was distributed to Detroit Health Department staff and health care workers, among others. So far, more than 1,800 Detroiters have received the first dose of the vaccine, according to data from the state, and more than a dozen people have received the second dose. 

Mayor Mike Duggan says he applauds Detroiters for wearing masks, staying inside and making difficult decisions during the pandemic. 

“None of this is going to change until we get enough of our residents vaccinated so we can reopen this city,” Duggan said. 

The state’s plan for distributing the vaccine is split into four phases, the first three focusing on health care, medical and frontline workers, as well elderly and vulnerable residents.  Phase four includes the general population. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday that Michigan’s pre-K to 12th-grade teachers will begin to get the vaccine as early as Monday. Frontline state and federal employees, childcare providers, jail and prison workers will also be able to get vaccinated then.

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Duggan says he and Whitmer have talked about ways to get the vaccine to more residents since the state received the first doses of the vaccine. 

“The governor has committed that while she doesn’t always know from one week to the next how many vaccines are coming from the feds, she’s going to do everything possible to have a continual flow here, so that we can start to vaccinate at the rates we want,” Duggan said. 

Detroit, which will manage a parallel distribution plan, offered the vaccine to the health department’s vaccination team and home health agencies first. It is currently offering the vaccine to nursing home staff and residents along with those at other long-term care facilities, according to city officials. 

Starting Monday, the city will schedule appointments for seniors and eligible essential workers at the TCF Center downtown based on the anticipated vaccine supply. Duggan, who was among the first to get a vaccination last month, says he expects the city to vaccinate up to 5,000 residents per day.

Denise Fair, chief public health officer with the city’s health department, says the city is prioritizing people who live in congregate living areas like senior homes and homeless shelters because they are especially vulnerable to getting the virus. 

“This strategy is essential to the community’s overall health and I am committed to ensuring the COVID-19 vaccine will be available to all who want it, as it will be essential toward helping residents recover from this pandemic,” Fair said.

Statewide the vaccine rollout has been slow — slower than 44 other states for the sake of comparison — with just under 100,000 people in Michigan having taken the vaccine. Only Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi and North Carolina have vaccinated at a slower rate, according to data from the federal government

Detroit must also contend with the fact some Black people distrust the vaccine. 

Andrea Acevedo, president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, a union representing nursing home employees across the state, says she has noticed a lot of fear and misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine among its nursing home workers.

“We believe a lot of this is due to the structural racism, which has caused trauma and heightened levels of distrust about vaccination in Black and brown communities where many of our nursing homes are located,” Acevedo said in an email to BridgeDetroit. “It’s going to take a concerted effort of union, employers, and community leaders to build this trust among our members.”

Acevedo says the union is encouraging its members to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves, their families and their patients. 

We know that the most dangerous threat to our workers and residents is and will continue to be COVID-19, which has now claimed over 13,000 lives in Michigan,” she told BridgeDetroit.

The COVID-19 vaccine has some side effects like joint pain, swelling, and feverlike symptoms, according to the CDC. But Keila Terry, a registered nurse in Detroit who was vaccinated on Dec. 23, says despite the side effects, she was much more worried about the effects of the coronavirus. 

“I just feel like we put more toxic things into our bodies,and people don’t really worry about those things. So I wouldn’t really be afraid of this vaccine,” Terry said. 

The vaccine will be available to Detroit Police Department staff, including officers, and Detroit Department of Transportation staff and essential workers starting Friday. 

The mayor hopes vaccinations will be available to the general public in late spring.

To get vaccinated, schedule an appointment by calling the health department 9 a.m. to  6 p.m. Monday to Friday at 313-230-0505. Senior citizens scheduling appointments will be required to provide their name, address and age.

Detailed information on the TCF testing site is available at www.detroitmi.gov

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