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West Michigan health officials look to tackle early issues in expanded vaccine rollout

Posted at 10:17 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 22:49:43-05

MICHIGAN — Health officials in West Michigan are asking for patience as the state moves into the next phase of vaccinating for COVID-19.

Teachers, first responders and people 65 years and older are now eligible for it.

“We are making adjustments as fast as we can,” said Kathy Moore, health officer for Muskegon County Health Department.

RELATED: President-elect Biden remarks on COVID-19 vaccine plan

Moore says the Muskegon County Health Department received more than 17,000 vaccination requests this week. Appointments still need to be made, which Moore emphasized will take time due to limited vaccine supply.

A preliminary timeline released by the state Friday predicts vaccines for those 16 years old and up will not be available until late in the summer.

“We thought maybe this was going to be the first three months, the first half a year,” said Moore. “We may be vaccinating, and we probably will be vaccinating, throughout all of 2021."

In Kalamazoo County, 15,500 people make up their wait list according to the health department. Fifty percent of the doses will be prioritized for the elderly. Twenty-five percent will go to K-12 educators and school staff, and 25 percent will go to clinics for essential front line employers.

READ MORE: Kalamazoo County has 15k people on COVID-19 vaccine waiting list

“This is going on all over the country as it relates to, ‘When am I going to get my vaccine?’ And while this is a good sign that we've got a significant amount of demand, it's also very challenging,” said Jim Rutherford, Kalamazoo County Health Department health officer.

Signs of misuse are starting to emerge.

“I don’t even know what to call it; I guess vaccine shopping for lack of a better term,” said Steve Kelso, spokesman for Kent County Health Department.

According to KCHD, people are making multiple appointments then canceling last minute, or not showing up, slowing down the process.

KCHD did not detail how widespread the abuse was but says a commercial will soon air highlighting the issue.

Right now, health departments and hospitals all use different registration systems, with few checks in place to catch duplicates.

“They, in effect, are taking away that opportunity from one of their friends, their family members, a loved one, to not be able to get in and take that vaccine,” said Kelso. “They’re inhibiting our ability to move as efficiently as possible, which right now, is of the utmost importance that we move efficiently.”

RELATED: Health Department administering 490 doses of COVID-19 daily

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