Here's how COVID-19 vaccines are distributed in Michigan

Posted at 6:33 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 06:27:20-05

(WXYZ) — Michigan has received over 2 Million doses of COVID vaccines. And so far 11% of the population has received at least one shot. But navigating how to get a COVID vaccine — and figuring out where to go can be hard. Just ask Rev. Linda Seatts-Ogletree.

On Friday the Oakland County resident will go with her husband Richard to get his first shot. But finding the 78-year-old a place to get vaccinated was challenging.

"I registered him with Henry Ford Health System, that’s our provider, and then I registered with the Oakland County Health Department, different pharmacies, Meijers, Walgreens, recently RiteAid, and — it’s like to no avail," said Seatts-Ogletree on Tuesday, hours after her husband received, finally, an eligibility email from Henry Ford Health System. He will get the first shot Friday at the hospital's midtown clinic.

"It seems like Wayne County is doing an excellent job with the vaccinations," said Seatts-Ogletree.

While the Michigander was quick to compare her county — Oakland — to others, the reality is a bit more complicated than one county “doing better” than another. Similar to when testing was first rolled out, there are different entities that the state is leaning on to give out the vaccine and they’re still trying to figure out which approach works best.

Right now, in Michigan, there are three sources for vaccines. Pharmacies like Meijer and Walgreens, who are getting the vaccines from the federal government. And then Health Departments and Hospital Health Systems who are being given vaccines each week from the state. And the latter are seeing distribution from the state in flux.

"More recently, the state has said that they wanted to start distributing less quite frankly to the hospitals and the health systems," said Carolyn Wilson, the Chief Operating Officer of Beaumont Health.

According to Wilson, in December the state reached out about vaccine distribution. Their three campuses ramped up capacity to give out 50,000 vaccines a week, but then things changed.

"I think the hospitals and health systems were getting at least 70 percent of the allocation for several weeks, we’re now getting probably less than 30 percent," said the executive, pinning the shift to a desire to to hit more vulnerable populations who may not be associated with a health system.

This is how Detroit's TCF vaccine site was built up in coordination with the Detroit and Wayne Health Departments. according to Hakim Berry, the City of Detroit's Chief Operating Officer who helped create the city's testing site and now vaccine initiative.

"Initially, the allocation of the vaccines went to the large healthcare systems and they then distributed based on the population in their network," said Berry, flicking at the way Seatts-Ogletree's husband will get vaccinated.

"Some of the patients that were contacted did not live in Detroit — so that’s when we had to take a look and say, how do we make the vaccine available to Detroiters," he continued.

But the math of doling out vaccines — especially with changing goals when it comes to who is best for distribution — can come with hiccups. This week Beaumont had to cancel nearly 2,000-second dose appointments due to a lack of vaccines from the state.

"I have to say this in a positive manner, right? There was an error I think in the state’s record-keeping," said Wilson, noting that the state was working to fix the issue.

"In fairness to everybody the vaccine came much faster," she said, noting that many of the kinks are being ironed out as everyone creates systems and figures out the best way to get allocated doses into as many arms as possible.

In the meantime, Wilson recommends eligible Michiganders to reach out to all available sources.

"I think for those who want a vaccination, I would try all those potential access points," she said.