State launches pilot to get vulnerable groups vaccinated

COVID-19 Vaccine

A COVID-19 vaccine dose is prepared at the clinic at DeVos Place Convention Center in downtown Grand Rapids on Jan. 25, 2021. (Courtesy Spectrum Health Beat/Chris Clark)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — State officials are calling on organizations administering COVID-19 vaccines to apply for doses specifically to reach those at higher risk of developing a serious case of the disease.

Providers already signed up with the federal government to give out shots are asked to show their plans to reach people ages 60 and up who are part of vulnerable populations — that is, groups that score high on the federal Social Vulnerability Index or that have seen high rates deaths related to COVID-19.

Under the pilot program, providers can ask for up to 2,500 doses for initiatives that work to overcome things like a lack of transportation, a language barrier, disabilities or vaccine hesitancy.

“We are working hard to eliminate any barriers to vaccine access,” the state’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said in a Tuesday statement. “Your ability to get a vaccine should not be impacted by whether you are in a rural or urban part of the state, are lower income, or don’t have access to a car, a computer, the Internet or don’t speak English. This is what equity means.”

Applications are due March 1 and officials will pick providers for the pilot March 8. Providers should have their doses in hand by March 10 and are expected to administer them within two weeks. One all that happens, the state will determine how well the program worked and decide whether to expand it.

Also Tuesday, the state announced it has started including race information on its online COVID-19 vaccine dashboard. So far, the race of nearly 44% of those vaccinated has not been recorded; the state is working to change that moving forward. About 42% of recipients are white and nearly 4% are Black. Nearly 10% were listed as “other,” about 1% as Asian or Pacific Islander and .3% as Native American.

Michigan wants to vaccinate some 5.6 million people. That will take 11.2 million doses. As of Tuesday, providers across the state had received about 2.6 million doses from the federal government. About 15% of people in the state have gotten at least one dose and about 8% have been fully vaccinated with both doses.

As things stand now, the state does expect to open up vaccinations to the lowest-risk groups of people until July at the earliest. That could change if the flow of vaccines into the state speeds up; the Biden administration has promised it will.

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