COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, disbursement expansion sign of rollout progress

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While many who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine still struggle to get an appointment, recent announcements from the state and local providers offer a sign of progress in accessibility.

The state announced Monday that mortuary services workers are now eligible to be vaccinated. Food processing and agricultural workers will be allowed to start getting vaccinated March 1.

“It shows there’s progress being made, that our state leaders are aggressively pursuing getting more vaccines into the state, that our federal leaders are aggressively working to produce and distribute more vaccines,” Michigan Agri-Business Association President Chuck Lippstreu told News 8 Tuesday. “So even if you’re not part of one of the critical infrastructure sectors that have been prioritized so far, it’s a very hopeful sign that we’re starting to see things ramp up.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also announced more than three dozen federally qualified health centers will now receive vaccine shipments from the state. Those are care providers that specialize in urban and rural areas.

According to data available on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard Tuesday afternoon, 4,000 doses were allocated to FQHCs around Michigan so far this week. That number could change as the week progresses and more data is added to the dashboard. 

In the west and southwest regions of the state, the following counties received shipments specifically for FQHCs. The dashboard does not list the specific center receiving vaccine.

A spokesperson for the state did not say if the added providers signify the state will be receiving more doses from the federal government, but did share the following:

“FQHCs have been identified by the federal government and the state of Michigan as an important provider to reach vulnerable populations. The very mission of a FQHC is to provide primary care services in underserved communities. The federal government is providing vaccine initially to a few of these facilities directly, Michigan is providing vaccine to those FQHCs that were not covered by the federal program.”

Metro Health – University of Michigan Health is also prioritizing underserved populations by starting to offer vaccine shots inside its Community Clinic in Wyoming. It’s Metro’s first vaccine site outside of the main hospital.

“We want to make sure we can do our absolute best to get those patients the vaccine and the care that they need,” Metro Health Vice President of Medical Administration and Medical Education Dr. Jeff Postlewaite told News 8 Tuesday afternoon. 

Patients served at the clinic will be contacted directly if they are now eligible for the vaccine. The goal is to also offer the vaccine to eligible community members in the area once it’s available.

Last week, Mercy Health announced pop-up clinics that will also focus on underserved areas. 

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