Pilot program helps more than 43k vulnerable Michiganders get COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 9:25 AM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 09:25:51-04

LANSING, Mich. — More than 43,000 Michiganders living in communities with high Social Vulnerability Index have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine thanks to a pilot program coordinated by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Protect Michigan Commission.

Back in March, the two organizations gave 35,800 vaccine doses to 22 entities across the state to help advance Michigan’s vaccine equity strategy, according to a news release Friday.

More than 14,000 vaccines were administered in the program’s first week alone, and several pilot sites administered all their vaccine allotment within the first week and received 8,000 additional vaccines to distribute in the second week and another 12,200 in the third week.

Second doses will be arriving at pilot sites over the next few weeks.

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“We are thrilled that thousands of Michiganders who might not have been able to easily access the COVID-19 vaccine are now protected thanks to the efforts of these pilot sites,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health with MDHHS. “As we continue our efforts to reach these vulnerable populations, we will be drawing from the successes and lessons learned from this pilot program.”

Pilot sites included hospitals, health departments, a fire department, and Area Agency on Aging, a behavioral health authority and other local organizations with strong ties in their communities.

The providers were chosen for their innovative strategies to overcome barriers in reaching vulnerable populations, such as transportation, language and other access issues for those with sensory, cognitive, emotional or physical disabilities.

Sites told the state they saw an increase in vaccine confidence within their communities because of one-on-one counseling opportunities with physicians or pastors and holding vaccine clinics at trusted sites like churches.

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In West Michigan, Advanced Health Pharmacy in Kalamazoo worked with local community organizations to set up five vaccination events in five days – in parking lots and churches, with drive-through and walk-in options.

Their team, which included volunteer medical students from Western Michigan University, vaccinated more than 1,100 people in the first two days at an outdoor vaccination event with donated food and a DJ.

Another 1,400 were vaccinated at additional events throughout the rest of the first week.

“I knew we weren’t going to save the world, but I knew we could save a neighborhood,” said Arun Tandon, pharmacist and owner of Advanced Health Pharmacy.