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As vaccine eligibility expands, health systems say Michigan's supply still lags well-behind demand

Posted at 5:49 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 17:49:42-04

WEST MICHIGAN — The COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expanded Monday in Michigan to include those 50 and older, plus those 16 and older with disabilities or medical conditions.

It’s a quick development as all Michiganders will also become eligible in 2 weeks, beginning April 5th.

However, health experts said our supply is still lagging far behind that expanded criteria.

Dr. Nirali Bora MD, Medical Director for the Kent County Health Department said, “We definitely do not have enough vaccine to meet the demand for all of those who are currently eligible.”

The situation is the same in Ottawa County at the Public Health Department as more Michiganders become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Marcia Mansaray, the Deputy Health Officer for the Ottawa County Dept of Public Health said, “It’s good news, but for us it’s been tempered a little bit because we don’t have enough vaccine to broaden into the age groups that are eligible today.”

Both counties said they’re still working through previous eligibility groups, but are thrilled about their vaccination rates for those most at risk.

Dr. Bora said, “I’m really excited about our 65 and older population; close to 70% of the population has already been vaccinated.”

In Ottawa County, 70% of those 65 and older have gotten at least one dose and 43% are completely vaccinated.

All West Michigan health systems are asking for patience, especially as all Michiganders become eligible on April 5th.

Dr. Bora said even though the groups are expanding, don’t expect to snag an appointment on that exact date.

“I don’t think that’s quite realistic at this point,” she said, “Vaccine scarcity is still an issue and so while everyone would be eligible, there’s still not going to be enough vaccine to get to all of those people who truly want and truly need it.”

The good news supply is supposed to be ramping up after a three week lag in supply according to the MDHHS.

Dr. Andrew Jameson, MD, the Division Chief of Infectious Disease at Mercy Health said, “We are looking at a massive expansion of how many vaccines are going to be available within a month from now, and we are looking at vaccinating thousands and thousands of people every day in Kent County alone.”

Click here to view our interactive COVID Mapping page.

With that in mind, Dr. Jameson said we can start to see some more normalcy this summer.

“Even if nothing else changed, summer is going to be better this year and when you add in the vaccinations, it is really going to be solid. So, I’m very optimistic that when we get into June and July it’s going to feel different than we are right now,” he said.

Dr. Jameson added though, that it will all hinge on what we do for the next month.

He said, “Keep up the diligence with masking, don’t get together with other people inside houses, keep socially distanced the best you can, and don’t let your guard down.”

In the meantime, experts recommend signing up wherever you can and taking the first available appointment.

Mansaray said, “Stay encouraged and keep that enthusiasm, because we really want people to get vaccinated.”

If you need to register for your vaccine visit vaccinatewestmi.com. You can register for the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic at DeVos Place, health departments in the area, and any participating pharmacies.