Michigan Medicine will offer COVID-19 vaccinations to frontline essential workers at the University of Michigan, as well as employees and established patients who are 65 or older, under the next priority phase of its vaccination plan as soon as vaccine supply allows.

EDITOR’S NOTE

This article has been updated from a previous online version and the one in the Jan. 11 print edition, to reflect a reduction in expected vaccine allocation by the state of Michigan.

Any U-M employees and students who want to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are urged to complete the university’s Blue Queue questionnaire and must create an account with the Michigan Medicine health portal.

While Michigan Medicine is unable to offer first-dose appointments at this time, those who fall into Phase 1B of vaccination schedule will be invited to schedule appointments through the health portal in waves as vaccine doses become available. Michigan Medicine’s vaccine locations are not open to the public and require an appointment.

University-affiliated health care workers and students have been receiving the vaccine since mid-December, when U-M received its first delivery of the Pfizer vaccine. As of Jan. 8, more than 15,000 had received their first dose of the two-part vaccine. Hundreds of appointments a day for vaccinations are being filled, with operations running seven days a week across four sites.

Michigan Medicine faculty, staff and students in Phase 1A of the vaccine-delivery plan defined by state and federal guidelines, and who have indicated via the Blue Queue questionnaire that they want to receive the vaccine, are being invited to schedule appointments. That includes any personnel who deliver direct or indirect care and provide any infrastructure support to the delivery of health care.

In accordance with an announcement Jan. 6 by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, those in Phase 1B also will be invited to schedule vaccination appointments. At U-M, invitations for employees to schedule will be sent as soon as vaccine supply allows and will continue to be offered each week as vaccine supply is confirmed over the next two to three months.

A Michigan Medicine employee receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a clinic at Michigan Stadium. (Photo by Bryan McCullough, Michigan Medicine)

Phase 1B covers those aged 75 and older; frontline essential workers including police officers, first responders, frontline state and federal workers and jail and prison staff; and pre-K-12 teachers and child-care providers. Additionally, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has accelerated efforts to vaccinate individuals aged 65-74.

Following this guidance, U-M will offer vaccination appointments to frontline essential workers who are unable to maintain social distancing of 6 feet or more in the performance of their work. At U-M, this includes the Division of Public Safety and Security, food services workers, environmental services, residence hall advisers and directors, and child-care workers not already vaccinated in Phase 1A.

The new guidance also includes U-M employees aged 65 and older, and established patients aged 65 and older who have an established Michigan Medicine primary care provider or have seen any Michigan Medicine provider within the past two years. Patients in these groups will be contacted to schedule an appointment through their MyUofMHealth portal account or by mail.

Michigan Medicine has received 21,700 total doses of the Pfizer Inc./BioNTech vaccine so far and has vaccinated more than 15,000 physicians, employees and health-care students who were in the Phase 1A category. Thousands of appointments are already scheduled in the days ahead, which, along with second doses, will use up much of that current vaccine supply.

Each week, Michigan Medicine administers more than 90 percent of its vaccine supply.

Depending on supply, Michigan Medicine could boost volume to an average of 3,400 vaccinations daily, operating several locations seven days a week, including one at Michigan Stadium. Additional locations are being planned to expand capacity with enough available vaccine.

Michigan Medicine is responsible for vaccinating the entire University of Michigan community, which stretches over three campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint.

In December, the university sent the Blue Queue questionnaire to personnel and students across all U-M campuses asking them to indicate whether they want the vaccine. The questionnaire also is available online. It also collects some health information used for prioritization into each vaccination phase, to align with the Centers for Disease Control and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommendations.

“We’re asking everyone to complete the Blue Queue questionnaire even if you aren’t interested in receiving the vaccine at this time or you have received the vaccine elsewhere,” said Preeti Malani, chief health officer and professor of internal medicine. “Filling out the questionnaire helps us get the vaccine to the right members of our university community at the right time.”

This information is used to achieve the public health goal to vaccinate as many members of the community as quickly as possible in partnership with the state, other health systems, and county health departments.

Schedulers will send out invitations based on the number of vaccine doses on hand and the prioritization phase in which an individual is included.

Meanwhile, current Michigan Medicine patients 65 and older and who are under the care of a Michigan Medicine primary care provider, or who have had a visit with any Michigan Medicine provider in the last two years, will receive invitations to schedule appointments.

Available appointments each week will depend on vaccine supply, but Michigan Medicine hopes to offer vaccination to all patients in this group who would like to be vaccinated in the next two to three months.

“This is a major milestone in our effort to fight the COVID-19 virus,” said Sandro Cinti, one of the leaders of Michigan Medicine’s vaccine distribution effort and professor of infectious diseases in the Medical School.

“We are delighted we can offer this lifesaving vaccine to vulnerable patients. Our best tactic to combat this pandemic is getting this safe, effective vaccine to as many people as soon as we can. In so doing, we are also supporting vaccination efforts for communities across the state.”

The current populations for vaccination phases are:

  • Phase 1A includes frontline health care workers as well as all persons supporting necessary health care infrastructure. 
  • Phase 1B includes frontline workers in essential and critical industries, including first responders (firefighters, police), K-12 education (teachers, support staff, day care), food and agriculture, manufacturing, corrections workers, postal service workers, public transit workers, grocery store workers, as well as individuals age 75 and older. 
  • Phase 1C includes people aged 65 and older, and those aged 16-64 at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk of a negative COVID-19 outcome. Phase 1C also includes other essential workers including transportation and logistics, food service, shelter and housing (construction), finance, IT communication, energy, media, legal, public safety (engineers), water and wastewater.
  • Phase 2 includes widespread distribution to individuals aged 16 and older.

“It’s great to see these steps being taken to help get everyone vaccinated against COVID-19, as it provides hope that we will eventually return to our usual activities. But we need the help of everyone at U-M to get in the ‘BlueQueue’ so you are ready when it’s your turn,” Malani said.

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