Column: This is our best shot at defeating COVID-19

COVID-19 vaccination site at Ford Field in Detroit | Ken Coleman

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been asked whether the United States is “turning a corner” and can soon expect to see an end to the coronavirus pandemic. He has refrained from saying that is so. And I get it! No matter how much we want to believe that this summer will be entirely different compared to the last 12 months, the truth is that the answer depends on our actions. 

Throughout the past year, we’ve learned more about SARS-CoV-2 than we’d ever hoped to. We’ve learned that we don’t need to stock up on toilet paper but frequent hand washing and getting outside are simple ways to protect ourselves. We’ve learned and adopted healthy behaviors that we had never heard of before. (I’m looking at you “social distancing.”) We’ve collectively managed to do extraordinary things to protect each other and ourselves. 

And now that there are three safe and highly effective vaccines against COVID-19 available, we have yet another urgent opportunity to defend our state from this virus.

In anticipation of Michigan getting its first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer established the Protect Michigan Commission — a diverse collection of individuals from across the state each representing a distinct industry, profession and background. 

As a health policy analyst with the Michigan League for Public Policy, I feel proud to have been selected to join the commission, whose goal is to provide input on the state’s outreach and communication plans to encourage COVID-19 vaccination. It’s been an honor to elevate questions residents of our state have about getting inoculated from coronavirus and to consider how I might be at least a small part of the work that helps Michigan accomplish the remarkable feat of successfully executing the largest vaccine program in our state’s history. 

To date, 5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Michigan. Approximately 70% of Michiganders over the age of 65 have received at least a first dose, and more than 82,000 individuals have been vaccinated at the Ford Field clinic, which opened only two weeks ago. 

And last week, Gov. Whitmer established a new daily vaccine goal of 100,000 shots per day. This change is the result of the state consistently meeting or exceeding the original goal of administering 50,000 vaccinations per day.

Ken Coleman: Taking the COVID-19 vaccine was an easy decision for me

I am heartened by our state’s vaccination progress and hope to see it continue because if we are truly going to make this summer feel different than the last, we must all do our part in getting control of this virus. Continuing to wash our hands, social distance, wear masks when in groups indoors, obtain a test after a potential exposure, and, yes, securing a vaccine appointment when one is available will help us to make this pandemic past tense. Not only do the vaccines prevent serious illness and death, they are also showing their capacity to slow the spread of the virus, something we desperately need to do to win the battle against variants.

As of April 5, every Michigander age 16 and older became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. And this expanded access couldn’t come at a better time given that our state is experiencing a sharp rise in infection numbers. Now is the time for all of us to do our part for personal health, for public health and for a return to normalcy. Every dose gets us closer to life after coronavirus.

That’s my pitch! Please get a vaccine when you can and encourage others to do the same. For more information and to register for a vaccine appointment near you, go to michigan.gov/covidvaccine. Let’s turn the corner together.

Amber Bellazaire
Amber Bellazaire joined the Michigan League for Public Policy as a policy analyst in June of 2019. Her work primarily focuses on state policy and budgets affecting Michigan’s Medicaid programs. Previously, Amber worked at the National Conference of State Legislatures tracking legislation and research related to injury and violence prevention, adolescent health, and maternal and child health.