With COVID-19 vaccine potentially weeks away from distribution, health group says 'they're ready'

Metro Health and others have been planning for weeks
Posted at 6:06 PM, Nov 30, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — With COVID-19 vaccine distribution potentially just a few weeks away, local health departments and healthcare providers said Monday that they’re ready.

The Chief Medical Officer for Metro Health – University of Michigan, Dr. Ron Grifkin said that they have been working on their own plans for distribution, which included giving the first round of vaccinations to healthcare workers, first responders, and also people considered to be in ‘high-risk’ groups.

Dr. Grifka said that they have the freezers needed to keep the vaccine cold, sometime at -80 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to those limitations, the vaccine will likely only be able to be given in a hospital setting a first.

If you’re in a high-risk group and don’t have the ability to schedule a vaccination through work like healthcare providers, Dr. Grifka recommends setting up an appointment with Metro Health or your doctor to see if you meet the ‘high-risk’ criteria and then getting scheduled for a vaccination appointment.

Dr. Grifka said, “People over 65, obesity, hypertension, cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, if you’re immunocompromised, chemotherapy etc., those are the people we really want to get involved. But if you don’t have a primary care provider, go online, register, get a virtual visit, get set up, so when the vaccine is available, you are ready to go, because there may be a big surge and you don’t want to be behind the curve so to speak and getting this vaccine.”

Dr. Grifka also said it’s very important to keep in mind that proposed vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca require two doses to be most effective. That means you’ll need schedule an appointment for the second dose 21 days after the initial shot.

Spectrum Health, Mercy Health, The Kent County Health Department, and The Ottawa County Health Department all issued statements to FOX 17, saying that are actively working in conjunction with the state, healthcare groups, and health departments to plan their distribution process and will know more once a vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement through their communications office that the exact number vaccine doses that will be allocated for Michigan is unknown right now.

“ We are actively preparing with hospitals and local health departments so that the state can distribute and administer vaccines once they become available. We have heard this could be as early as mid-December, but no date has been finalized at the federal level,” said Lynn Sutfin, the Public Information Office for MDHHS.

She went on to say, “Every local health department will have a plan that fits their local community and hospitals, EMS, pharmacies and community partners are working together locally to implement vaccination plans. Currently, there are at least 31 hospitals and 11 local health departments across the state that have ultra-cold freezer capabilities, which is important for longer term storage of the Pfizer vaccine.”

The MDHHS said that they expect a vaccine to be in very high demand and will be shipped in containers with dry ice that can be refreshed, meaning that not every entity would need to have the ultra-cold freezers on hand if they are able to administer the doses quickly.