Local health departments ‘getting into a groove’ for vaccine clinics

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Michigan receives more COVID-19 vaccines, the organizations running clinics say they are establishing routines and working to perfect the rollout process.

Earlier this week, Michigan opened vaccine eligibility to more people, including people ages 50 and up with preexisting conditions and those who are homeless. Not all providers in all counties are able to start accepting appointments for the groups most recently added, but those who responded to News 8’s requests for an update Thursday noted smoother sign-up processes. 

“We’re kind of getting into a groove with our clinics,” Mid-Michigan District Health Department Health Officer Marcus Cheatham told News 8. “It’s so much more work than we thought we’d ever be doing, but here we go, we’re doing it.”

He noted supply for the three counties in his district — Montcalm, Gratiot and Clinton — has about tripled in the last two months to about 6,000 doses weekly.  

The addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also helping with logistics, though the state noted the single-dose shot will not be shipped to Michigan for the week of March 14.

“When the first shipment came out, we were made aware by (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that there would not be regular shipments over the next couple weeks of the J&J. This is across the country, not just Michigan,” a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson told News 8. 

Cheatham noted his department could reach more people in less time if J&J shots were readily available. For now, he said, they’re recognizing the outreach that’s still needed in rural areas.

“We’re still missing a lot of people who just don’t know how to sign up,” the health officer explained. “We realized we just need to do more of that leafleting in front of a grocery store, just those kinds of things, especially to reach the seniors.”

Outreach is also becoming a focus in Ottawa County, especially for those younger than 65 who are now eligible.

“We’re seeing that maybe not as many people are as anxious to get the vaccine, so we’ve been working closely with employers, also different nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations, to really open up those lines of communication and find out what are some of the hesitations or concerns. How can we help to provide more information?” Ottawa County Department of Public Health Public Information Officer Kristina Wieghmink explained. 

She added the health department is keeping a waitlist of those who are signed up but have not yet been successful in finding an appointment as a way to make last-minute appointments in the event that doses are left over after clinics.

Allegan County is using the same approach, as well as offering free rides to those 60 and up who need assistance getting to an appointment. You can call 269.673.4229 right after making your vaccine appointment to get a ride.

While some providers are in a position to be calling people with extra supply, News 8 is learning some folks are resorting to traveling outside of their county or the state altogether to get a shot. MDHHS has urged people to stay local if possible, but also noted that “no shot in the arm is ever wasted.”

“We have heard of Michiganders traveling to other counties or states to be vaccinated as we have also have non-Michigan residents vaccinated here in Michigan. MDHHS has set a goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders age 16 and older with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. We ask that Michiganders contact their local health departments and pharmacies first for vaccination before traveling to other parts of the state or out-of-state. However, no shot in the arm is ever wasted as getting this vaccine is our way out of the pandemic and returning to some sense of normalcy.”

MDHHS

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