Older adults in Michigan frustrated in efforts to get COVID vaccine | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly
Many of those who called his office, Duggan said, were confused that after Whitmer’s announcement last week they couldn’t get an appointment.
“There was a difference between saying 65-year-olds are eligible and actually having the vaccine,” said Duggan, a Democrat, who faulted the federal government for the vaccine’s slow rollout, saying the state is getting only a slice of the vaccines it had expected.
Some Republicans in turn blame the Whitmer administration.
Against the confusion, health departments and hospitals have publicly pleaded for patience.
Even as the governor announced the expansion of those eligible for the vaccine last week, phones at the health department that covers Delta and Menominee counties in the Upper Peninsula began ringing. A normal day would mean 50 to 75 calls. By the end of that day, “the phone system had recorded more than 4,000 separate calls,” Health Officer Mike Snyder told Bridge.
“People would just call, not get through, hang up, and call again,” Snyder said. At the time, his department had just 300 Moderna vaccines for the two counties, enough for 150 people under the two-dose regimen.
Snyder said UPS delivered 975 Pfizer vaccines on dry ice Monday morning — still far short of the 2,400 people who have set up appointments. He said residents were told their appointments were contingent on supply.
Snyder said his office was set up to handle people age 75 and older. “But when they changed it to 65, we just couldn’t keep up… I don’t know if you can really blame anyone. I think it’s just a supply chain issue.”
The halting rollout of vaccines in Michigan, and across much of the country, may soon become more complicated.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Tuesday that the federal government will release millions of additional vaccines from its reserve — vaccines that originally were being held as second doses. He also urged states to offer vaccines to anyone with an underlying health condition in addition to older residents.
The changes, he said, reflect “the urgency of the situation we face.” He also suggested that some states have micromanaged distribution so that vaccines are being stalled. Allocations now will be based, in part, on the pace at which states distribute and administer the vaccines, he said.
As of Tuesday, Michigan ranked 40th in vaccines administered for every 100,000 people, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state had administered 296,588 doses of the 831,150 shipped to it, according to state data.
Raymer, the Grand Rapids man, called searching for a vaccine for his mother “without question, one of the more frustrating experiences I’ve dealt with.”
Why would the state open up vaccines to those 65 and older, he asks, when it was struggling to get it out to the first group of recipients?
Doing so only “created additional demand for the same limited product.”
Johns, of the Clio senior center, said the facility may eventually be a site for a vaccine clinic in a partnership with a local pharmacist. But not yet. There are no vaccines.
In the meantime, she said, the lack of information is disheartening for older people anxious about the virus and cooped up.
It offers hope “they can get out, that they’d finally be able to go to the grocery store without waiting for their daughters and pick up those grapes or vegetables.”
Bridge reporter Mike Wilkinsons contributed to this report.