House committee learns about vaccine rollout, OKs winter sports resolution


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan House Oversight Committee heard from the new director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Thursday about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel delivered a presentation on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, laying out the state’s goals and methods.

Hertel explained how the state has called on facilities actually giving shots to use at least 90% of their doses within a week of receiving them and that it has set a goal that 95% of recipients get their second dose within the expected time frame.

She also said MDHHS has set a goal that no one in the state should have to drive more than 20 minutes to get vaccinated. She also explained that the MDHHS is considering the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index to make sure it’s allocating plenty of doses to communities that are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.

Separately, the Michigan House Health Policy Committee heard testimony from a representative of Pfizer, which is manufacturing its vaccine at a plant in Portage.

“Our facility in (Portage) is the primary manufacturing site of our COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.,” Pfizer spokesperson Lisa Cohen said. “We have shipped 30 million doses, as of today, to destinations across the country. We anticipate no interruptions in shipments from this facility as we look to scale up production this year.”

She said there haven’t been any stoppages on the lines making the vaccines.

“We only expect to increase in what the output will be,” Cohen said. “I will tell you all that under the contract with the U.S., all of the doses through the end of March are all dedicated to the U.S. market. They are not going to outside the U.S. We thought that was a really important piece. We are on track to increase the number of doses that we can make available to the federal government, and for you all, that’s 120 million doses by the end of March.”

Before Hertel spoke, the Oversight Committee first heard from state Rep. Timothy Beson, R-Bay City, who has introduced a resolution calling on Whitmer and MDHHS to allow high school winter sports to get started. The committee approved that resolution 6-3, which sends it along to the full House.

Later Thursday, Whitmer and Hertel announced that the winter sports season could start as early as Monday with safety protocols in place.

The grassroots group Let Them Play Michigan on Tuesday filed a court complaint against Hertel trying to force the return to the court. It had scheduled a 3 p.m. press conference for Thursday but canceled it after learning competition would be allowed to start Monday.

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