At-risk community vaccine effort reaches more than 40K

    Parker Michels-Boyce/ For the Virginia Mercury

    More than 43,000 Michiganders who reside in communities with high at-risk factors have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at various community sites across the state, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Protect Michigan Commission (PMC), an advisory group to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

    “We are thrilled that thousands of Michiganders who might not have been able to easily access the COVID-19 vaccine are now protected thanks to the efforts of these pilot sites,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, DHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “As we continue our efforts to reach these vulnerable populations, we will be drawing from the successes and lessons learned from this pilot program.”

    Organizations participating in the pilot project

    • Advanced Pharmacy in Kalamazoo County
    • Alma Family Practice, P.C. in Gratiot County
    • Allegan County Health Department in Allegan County
    • Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services in Wayne County
    • Bay-Arenac Behavioral Health Authority in Bay County
    • Calhoun County Public Health Department in Calhoun County
    • Covered Bridge Healthcare in St. Joseph County
    • Cristo Rey Family Health Center in Ingham County
    • Dearborn Fire Department in Wayne County
    • Genoa Healthcare in Oakland County
    • Henry Ford Health System in Macomb, Wayne, Jackson, Oakland counties
    • Ingham County Health Department in Ingham County
    • Kent County Health Department in Kent County
    • Mid-Michigan Health in Alcona, Alpena, Clare counties
    • Northwest Michigan Health Services, Inc. in Oceana, Mason, Manistee, Benzie counties
    • Saginaw County Health Department in Saginaw County
    • Region VII Area Agency on Aging in Saginaw County
    • Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital in Schoolcraft County
    • St. Clair County Health Department in St. Clair County
    • Wayne Health in Wayne County
    • Washtenaw County Health Department in Washtenaw County
    • Western Wayne Family Health Center in Wayne County

    To help guide its effort, the state uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index tool evaluating social and environmental factors that create higher risks in any given community. 

    In March, DHHS and PMC awarded 35,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 22 entities across Michigan to help strengthen its vaccine equity strategy. A total of 14,678 vaccines were administered within the first week. Several pilot sites administered all their vaccine allotment within the first week and received 8,000 additional vaccines to distribute in the second week, and another 12,200 in the third week. In total, 43,797 vaccines were administered statewide as a part of the pilot. Second doses will be arriving at pilot sites over the next few weeks, officials said. 

    The effort comes at a critical time. Michigan now leads the nation in coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over the last seven days, according to The Centers for Disease Control. On April 5, all Michigan residents aged 16 and older became eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. To date, about 3.4 million Michigan residents have now been fully vaccinated, accounting for about 29% of the state’s population 16 and older.

    Pilot sites include hospitals, health departments, a fire department, an Area Agency on Aging, a behavioral health authority and other local organizations with strong ties in their communities. The providers were chosen for their strategies to overcome barriers in reaching vulnerable populations, including transportation, language, and other access issues for those with sensory, cognitive, emotional or physical disabilities.

    Sites reported an increase in vaccine confidence within their communities because of the one-on-one counseling opportunities with physicians or community leaders. Some of the vaccine pilot program successes, health officials said, have occurred because of partnerships with organizations like Henry Ford Health System, Wayne Health, Dearborn Fire Department and Advanced Health Pharmacy in Kalamazoo. 

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.