GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan’s top doctor on Tuesday acknowledged there’s room for improvement in the effort to get Michiganders vaccinated against COVID-19 and said she will be checking in with hospital leaders for feedback on challenges identified so far.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the state’s vaccine dashboard showed more than 71,000 doses have been administered statewide out of 313,375 distributed.
“There’s no question this is the most massive vaccination effort that we’ve ever undertaken in this country,” Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said at a press conference alongside the governor in Lansing, adding that she recognizes operational challenges has the rollout going slower than people would like.
News 8 found there are a few factors contributing to that fractional progress so far.
“I do know, quite frankly, that some (hospitals) intentionally wanted to start just a little bit slow just to make sure they knew the process and how to move people through as quickly as possible. I will say we do expect it to increase as far as the speed of vaccines being administered to people. We are also expanding our support as far as human resource support so that everyone can move as quickly as they can and that staffing is not a challenge,” Khaldun explained.
In West Michigan, Spectrum Health has received the largest number of doses so far, totaling about 30,000.
Spectrum Health Senior Vice President of Hospital Operations Chad Tuttle told News 8 those are dedicated as first round of shots. More shipments will be sent for the second round, which some within the system will be eligible for beginning next week.
“While it looked like perhaps we were a little slower coming out of the gate, the reality was that was out of an abundance of caution, to be prudent and ensure that we were being very safe in the way we were administering the vaccine,” Tuttle explained.
Those who qualify and want to be vaccinated under the state’s first priority group will receive their first dose by the end of next week.
There’s a lot of logistical planning that is going into that, including the 42 clinics set up that offer 22,000 appointments between now and Jan. 8.
“It’s a complex operation,” Tuttle added. “As an example, we won’t vaccinate all of our employees who work in the emergency department or the ICUs at the same time because we keep those environments working. We’re trying to target approximately 25% of staff from any unit or any area at one time and vaccinate those individuals and then go back to some of their coworkers two or three days later to get in a clinic. So staggering that approach, you can imagine the logistical challenge of scheduling thousands and thousands of employees for these open clinics.”
During Tuesday’s press conference, News 8 also asked Khaldun about the priority line for vaccinations after receiving several questions — and in some cases complaints — from people West Michigan that certain hospitals are giving doses to employees not directly involved with patient care.
Khaldun asserted the importance of equitable distribution and added, “it is most important that we get these vaccines out and administered as quickly as possible. A vaccine that is administered to someone who’s a health care worker is not a wasted vaccine. And so again, we are working with our hospitals. It is certainly not a perfect system, but I’m actually glad that someone got that vaccine and it’s not sitting in a freezer.”