Amid vaccine shortages and changing prioritization guidance from the federal and state government, Michigan Medicine has administered more than 51,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses since mid-December.

The health system is closely following state guidelines as it distributes vaccines, recently completing vaccination of most of those who fall into the state’s first priority group, Phase 1A.

To date, all U-M employees defined by the state as essential workers under its second priority group, Phase 1B, have been invited to make an appointment for their vaccination.

At U-M, workers considered as frontline essential workforce in Phase 1B include child care workers, K-12 education workers, Division of Public Safety and Security personnel not included in Phase 1A, residence hall staff, food service workers, environmental services and custodial staff, and certain maintenance personnel. Across all three campuses, fewer than 500 individuals fall into this category.

The vast majority of campus employees fall into later priority phases and, under current state guidance, will be eligible to receive vaccine in Phase 1C or Phase 2. The timing of those phases is dependent on vaccine supply and determined by the state.

Although campus employees may be considered essential to the functioning of the university by their department or asked to work onsite, only those in the roles listed above fall into the essential worker category in Phase 1B as defined by the state of Michigan.

In January, the state expanded the current vaccination phase to include all people age 65 and older. Michigan Medicine is vaccinating established patients and employees in this group as vaccine becomes available. Of the more than 51,000 vaccine doses Michigan Medicine has delivered — with Feb. 2 marking the 50th day of vaccine distribution — about 4,500 have gone to Phase 1B essential workers and individuals 65 years of age and older, as both first and second doses.

Vaccine supply has been extremely limited nationwide and as a result, Michigan Medicine has received fewer doses each week than it has the capacity to administer, getting sometimes as few as 1,950 doses in a week. With adequate supply, Michigan Medicine has the capacity to administer up to 24,000 doses each week.  

The limited supply forced Michigan Medicine to significantly reduce vaccine clinic operations. The state estimates that completing Phase 1B will take months.

“We understand the frustration and anxiety of everyone who wants to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we have not been able to receive enough doses to administer vaccines at our capacity,” said Sandro Cinti, professor of internal medicine and one of the co-leads of Michigan Medicine’s COVID-19 Vaccine & Therapeutics Task Force.

The state is distributing a higher percentage of its received vaccine supply to county health departments and pharmacies to better reach high-risk populations and engage a regional approach to vaccination. Michigan Medicine is partnering with local health departments and other health care systems across the region to expedite vaccine delivery for every dose received.

All Michigan Medicine employees have been invited to receive a vaccine. About a month ago, health systems across the state were asked by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to extend the definition of Phase 1A to include anyone who is critical to the continued provision of health care infrastructure. This included individuals who may not work in direct or indirect patient care areas or work on-site in the clinical setting but who must be well in order to keep the front line functioning.

The state has identified health care systems as critical infrastructure. All Michigan Medicine employees are essential to the functioning of the health care system, even though these individuals may work remotely. For example, staffing the hospital depends on Human Resources personnel hiring and training new nurses, while information technology workers are required to sustain operations to maintain electronic health record systems.

When Michigan Medicine expanded the definition of Phase 1A to all employees, the state of Michigan had not yet moved into Phase 1B, and state directives were to use at least 90 percent of received vaccine within seven days.

“We believe every dose administered contributes to the overall safety of our community and have continuously administered over 90 percent of vaccines allocated to us by the state within the week,” Cinti said.

“Our goal is to administer as many vaccines to the community as quickly and safely as possible, and to maintain alignment with the state and other health entities to reach our highest risk populations and slow the devastating spread of COVID-19.”