The state of Michigan has revised its strategy for distributing COVID-19 vaccine doses in an effort to achieve a balance of efficiency, effectiveness and equity and target those populations most at-risk.
That change, coupled with an overall shortage of available vaccine, had led Michigan Medicine to recommend U-M employees age 65 and older, and those defined by the state as frontline essential workers, also sign up with their local health department and retail pharmacies to maximize their chances of receiving a vaccination appointment.
While the health system currently has the infrastructure to deliver 12,000 vaccines a week, it does not have sufficient supply to offer new first-dose appointments to people who are currently eligible under the Phase 1B priority group.
The smaller shipments of vaccine received from the state will be used primarily for second doses for those who are due, including vaccinated employees at the Flint and Dearborn campuses.
Michigan Medicine is working closely with local health departments and other health systems to facilitate distribution of available doses. As supply allows, Michigan Medicine will release new appointments to the priority groups.
The timeline and priority groups outlined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services indicate, depending on vaccine supply, a shift to Phases 1C and 2 in May and thereafter.
Michigan Medicine leaders have indicated that the state will follow a local public health strategy, with 60 percent of the state’s vaccine doses to be sent directly to health departments and community health centers, and 40 percent going to health systems like Michigan Medicine.
Additionally, Michigan retail pharmacies Meijer, Rite Aid and Cardinal Health will receive a separate allocation of vaccine from the federal government to help speed up the rollout of vaccines.
The number of doses counties will receive will be based on its social vulnerability index, a tool that uses census data to identify and map places where a community may have more difficulty preventing human suffering and financial loss in a disaster, Michigan Medicine officials say.
During the surge of COVID-19 cases in the spring of 2020, areas of Michigan that were most affected also typically had the highest social vulnerability index. These same areas will be prioritized for receiving vaccine while supplies are limited.
On Feb. 10, Michigan Medicine issued a letter to patients notifying them that, due to reduced vaccine supply, no new appointments for first vaccine doses were opened during the week of Feb. 8.
This change in strategy by the state has dramatically impacted Michigan Medicine, along with most health care organizations across the state, in their ability to provide first-dose vaccinations.