GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Even as Michigan officials tie the vaccination effort to the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, the rate of people getting the first dose of their vaccine is beginning to slow, state data shows.
“A few months ago, supply was the constraining resource and now supply is quite abundant, whereas finding people willing to get a vaccine is the constraining resource,” Spectrum Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Josh Kooistra explained Friday.
A few weeks ago, appointments at the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic at the DeVos Place were fully booked mere hours after Spectrum opened vaccine eligibility to everyone over 16. With demand down and supply no longer an issue, it is now able to offer walk-up doses.
Data from the last few weeks shows the percentage of people in West Michigan counties getting their first dose was previously increasing by about 5 points every week. In the last two weeks, the numbers started to gradually slow.
Kooistra said Spectrum saw this coming.
“As a population, certainly there’s the new adopters when it comes to new scientific approaches and I think with millions and millions of doses administered in the United States, we know that the vaccine is effective and safe. However, there’s still some of our population who have some hesitancy about receiving a new therapy,” Kooistra said.
On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer laid out a plan to to get at least 70% of people over 16 in the state vaccinated in order to lift mask and gathering orders.
Health departments say as numbers begin to trail, it’s difficult to know when that goal will be attainable.
“The demand that we had right at the beginning was very refreshing,” Ottawa County immunization supervisor Toni Bulthuis said.
Bulthuis said misinformation and fear of something new have played a role in making people hesitant about getting a vaccine. The county says rural communities have been one of the populations in need of convincing.
“The hesitancy sometimes isn’t hesitancy. It might be a little bit of complacency where (people think) if it’s easy and comes to me, I’ll get it. And that’s the group we want to get to right now,” Bulthuis said. “As things have started to slow down a little bit, we’ve tried to come up with different ways and be a little bit more creative to offer vaccines.”
Ottawa County is now among the Michigan counties offering vaccine clinics in unconventional spaces. On Saturday, it will begin to offer COVID-19 vaccines and testing at Tulip Time in Holland.
If the state can maintain its current vaccination rate, a little more than 3% growth per week, the number of people vaccinated would hit the 70% goal in June. But health departments and systems say this would depend on the actions of Michiganders.
“We have a ways to go. If we can be effective with physicians having conversations with their patients, trying to promote the vaccine safety and effectiveness, we may get there, but I have some reservations about getting to 70%,” Kooistra said. “Just with the slowdown that we’re seeing, I do have concerns that it feels a long way away.”
Health departments say they plan to continue offering walk-up clinics and bringing them to convenient locations to get more people vaccinated.
COVID-19 testing will be available at Tulip time Saturday through May 8 at the soccer field at 61 E. 6th St. Those services will be available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Walk-up testing will also be available on between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday.
Walk-up COVID-19 vaccines will be available at the same location from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. There are also options to preregister for a shot.