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Leading the way in vaccination rates - a look at what's working in Oakland, Washtenaw counties

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 6:16 AM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 06:16:36-04

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. (WXYZ) — Two of the top five counties in the state with the highest rates of eligible residents vaccinated are here in metro Detroit; Oakland and Washtenaw counties are leading the way locally in getting shots into arms.

  • At the very top of that list is Leelanlau County, where 68.8 percent of eligible people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Next is Grand Traverse County, where 61 percent have received at least one dose.
  • Washtenaw County ranks third, which 60.5 percent.
  • Fourth is Emmet County, where 60.2 percent of eligible people have received at least one dose.
  • And just behind that is Oakland County in fifth place where 59.5 percent have received at least one dose.

Vaccination rates have gone down slightly since May 13, when the state's dashboard began including those 12 and older in the pool of vaccine-eligible people.

“You can look at some counties in Michigan that don’t have one major health system. They might have a hospital, but we have five health systems here," said Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter.

He said that likely played a role in jump-starting Oakland County's rollout. In the beginning, as the state focused first on vaccinating front line healthcare workers, hospital systems were getting a lot of the vaccine supply. Partnering with area health systems he said overall has improved access to the shot for people in Oakland County.

Last week Thursday, Oakland County began vaccinating kids 12-15 with the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.

“We had a thousand teenagers come in to get vaccinated," Coulter said.

Susan Ringler Cerniglia, public information officer for the Washtenaw County Health Department, told WXYZ there's a lot of factors that may have played a roll in getting more people vaccinated so far.

“It’s really gratifying to see those numbers be as high as they are," she said.

Like most county health departments, Washtenaw focused on large scale vaccination sites early on in the vaccine rollout, and used pop-up locations to try and boost access.

The department's Nurse on the Run team also allowed healthcare workers to cover even more ground, she said.

“[They] went out to small sites where it wasn’t feasible for folks to come to the mass sites and also did home visits. So we really started that from the very beginning," Ringler Cerniglia said.

Washtenaw County also began offering the Pfizer vaccine to kids 12-15 last week; there were two large clinics Friday.

The areas in Michigan struggling to vaccinate based on current rates are:

  • Hillsdale County, where 34.3 percent of eligible people have received at least one dose according to MDHHS.
  • Next is Cass County with 32.3 percent
  • And then the City of Detroit with 31.6 percent.

But even areas or counties where vaccination rates are high are still battling vaccine hesitancy, as vaccination rates overall are slowing.

“If you would have asked me a couple of months ago I would have said I was extremely confident that we’ll get to our 70 percent," Coulter said, of Oakland County reaching herd immunity.

"It has slowed dramatically," he said.

Still, Coulter said he's hopeful the county could reach 70 percent in the next couple of months.

Oakland County has not turned away any doses yet, as the demand has still been there for the current supply. But Coulter said if they reach a point where they don't have the arms to put them in, they will share their supply with neighboring counties.