Highly individualized approach to vaccinations could help Michigan reach herd immunity

Posted at 12:55 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 12:55:07-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan is seeing some of the lowest COVID-19 numbers since the beginning of the pandemic but health professionals say it will be a difficult task to reach herd immunity.

There are only two COVID-19 patients at Sparrow Health in mid-Michigan, at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids there are about 30 acutely ill patients and just 16 seriously ill coronavirus patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Jackson.

Brian Brasser who serves as Chief Operating Officer at Spectrum Health

“They’ve been here in some cases for a very long time,” said Brian Brasser who serves as Chief Operating Officer at Spectrum Health. “The average age was younger than what it was in the fall. Right now, as we look across our hospitals and our COVID-19 patient population the average age is 57 years old. On average they’ve been here 19 days.”

Brasser said across the board the patients in Spectrum’s ward were either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated when they became ill.

On average Michigan sees 100 new cases a day and the state is still 8 percentage points away from reaching 70 percent.

Dr. Paul Entler who serves as vice president of quality and performance improvement at Sparrow Health said that vaccine hesitancy isn’t rooted in a lack of knowledge, instead, it’s a lack of trust.

Dr. Paul Entler who serves as vice president of quality and performance improvement

“For each patient, we have a discussion and it’s a really non-judgemental way of approaching it. It’s actually been quite effective at getting patients at some point for acceptance of the vaccine,” Entler said.

Although big vaccine incentives like shot lotteries are popular across the United States Dr. Debra Furr-Holden an epidemiologist with Michigan State University, questions whether they’re the best approach.

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, Epidemiologist with Michigan State University

“I question the ethics of using these approaches because I think if people really had a good sense of the benefit of the vaccine and relative to the risk of contracting COVID, I think we’d see a lot more people in the absence of any incentive who would be a yes to the vaccine,” she said.

Ohio launched its own vaccine lottery to boost its vaccine rate but results show that it may have created no significant effect. Instead, Furr-Holder suggests highly individualized efforts to reach all populations.

“I do think it’s now time for us to bring a scalpel to the problem and I think we should be vaccinating people on their front steps. I think we need paid days off for people for COVID vaccination.”

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