Healthcare sites expecting shipments of newly approved COVID-19 vaccine

Officials concerned about ‘slight uptick’ in numbers and presence of coronavirus variant in Michigan, but excited about boost to vaccination effort
Healthcare officials reported some positive COVID-19 developments in the state and in the region during the first week of March – including the emergency use approval of a third vaccine – but they also expressed concerns about some of the numbers and outbreaks of a variant of the virus in Michigan.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer – during an update to the state on Tuesday, March 2 – said Michigan ranks ninth in the nation in the number of total vaccines administered. State officials reported that Michigan has administered more than 2.2 million vaccines as of March 2.
“This number is growing as we speak,” Governor Whitmer said.
Governor Whitmer and area healthcare officials said the recent approval of another COVID-19 vaccine should help bolster vaccination efforts. 
“On Friday, the FDA approved a third safe and effective vaccine, this one from Johnson & Johnson,” Governor Whitmer said.
(The other two available COVID-19 vaccines are from Pfizer and Moderna.)
Governor Whitmer said doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are being manufactured at Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 
“It is a proud, proud moment for our state with two of the three vaccines being made right here in Michigan by Michigan workers. It’s a powerful reminder of what Michiganders are capable of,” Governor Whitmer said. “These vaccines are essential to getting our country and our state back to normal.”
Healthcare officials said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine currently requires only one dose and it is easier to work with than the other two since it can be stored using normal refrigeration methods. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require extreme cold storage and two doses given weeks apart.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine works a little bit differently than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It uses an inactive form of the common cold virus, the adenovirus, that cannot cause any illness and it gives a cold to your body’s cells so that your body can start making special antibodies so that the body fights the real COVID-19 virus if you come in contact with it in the future,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive. “The nice thing about this new vaccine is that you only need one dose to get fully protected. You don’t have to worry about coming to get a second shot to get complete protection and the vaccine can be stored at regular refrigerator temperatures, which means it is easier for providers to manage.”
“This particular type of vaccine has been used in other vaccines. It does not alter your DNA, it does not give you the virus, it went through the same rigorous testing as other vaccines, and no steps were skipped in the process,” Dr. Khaldun said. 
Healthcare officials said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, and the Moderna vaccine all have similar side effects.
“Just like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines it can cause mild side effects like a sore arm, a headache, or fever,” Dr. Khaldun said.
Dr. Nick Torney, Munson Healthcare Infectious Disease Pharmacist, said a two-dose series involving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being studied, “however, the results of that are not available at this time.” Dr. Torney, during on online Munson Healthcare press conference on Tuesday, March 2, said the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has shown “72 percent efficacy after 14 days” and it is “effective in preventing hospitalization and death.”
“Really the most important piece of this and really with any vaccine is its effectiveness in preventing hospitalization and death, in which case this vaccine did show an excellent effectiveness in preventing severe critical disease and death across multiple regions throughout the world, including South Africa, Latin America, and the United States,” Dr. Torney said. “The safety of this vaccine is definitely promising.”
State and local healthcare officials expected to receive their first shipments of the new vaccine during the first week of March.
“We do expect to receive Johnson & Johnson vaccines as early as this week,” Dr. Torney said.
“On top of vaccines we were already scheduled to receive from Pfizer and Moderna we will be receiving an additional 82,000 vaccines of Johnson & Johnson,” Governor Whitmer said. “We are headed in the right direction and we just ask that people remain patient as we work around the clock to get shots in arms and that we redouble our efforts toward staying safe in the interim.”
Dr. Christine Nefcy, Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer, said some COVID-19 numbers in northern Michigan have increased slightly in late February and early March.
“Regionally we are at over 25,000 cases and 587 deaths. We’re at about a 3.5 percent positivity rate, which is slightly up from where we were last week. That has resulted also in a slight increase in our number of inpatient cases we have across the Munson Healthcare system. This number has been steady for the past few days, but again is up slightly from where we were last week,” Dr. Nefcy said on Tuesday, March 2, during on online press conference.
Dr. Nefcy said the Munson hospitals have had a recent “slight uptick” in COVID-19 hospitalizations after several days of downward trends for those numbers.
“Nowhere near where we were in the October November timeframe but certainly not continuing to trend down, which is what we were hoping for,” Dr. Nefcy said.
Dr. Nefcy said Munson Healthcare had administered 33,847 vaccines as of March 1. Munson Healthcare is “not scheduling any additional first dose clinics” as of March 2, officials said.
“Munson Healthcare’s current vaccine supply is already allocated to those currently scheduled for an appointment. If you received your first dose from Munson Healthcare, you will be able to receive your second dose at your scheduled time,” according to Munson Healthcare.
District Health Department #10 conducted first dose clinics “for residents 65 and older” on Friday, March 5, at all 10 of its offices, according to department officials.
“Many of our 65-plus COVID-19 vaccine waiting lists are nearing the end, but based on census data, we know there are still many individuals in this category that have not signed up to receive the vaccine,” said Kevin Hughes, District Health Department #10 Health Officer. “Our staff has had trouble reaching many who are on the waiting list also, so we wanted to host a clinic to accommodate our seniors who haven’t received their vaccine yet.”
District Health Department #10, which serves 10 Michigan counties (including Crawford), recently reported several new additions to the groups eligible for vaccination: “Food processing and migrant/seasonal farm workers; Utilities and energy services workers; Critical manufacturing workers; Public transit workers; Grocery store workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; Local government workers; Workers with unique skill sets not covered above, such as non-hospital laboratories, and veterinary clinics; Anyone age 50 and older with or without a medical condition; Caregivers of individuals with special needs.”
“Effective immediately, District Health Department #10 is now opening up eligibility for all frontline essential workers, all adults aged 50 and older, and caregivers of individuals with special needs to register to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. DHD#10 will continue to prioritize seniors 65-plus who are on our waiting list first,” according to the department.
The waiting list links are available on the department’s website at
Dr. Khaldun said overall COVID-19 case rates are down in the state, but they’re up slightly in parts of northern Michigan.
“We are now seeing a plateau in our case rates. Cases are now at about 91 cases per million people, slightly lower than where we were at the previous week. Two areas of the state – the Saginaw and Traverse City regions – have seen a small growth in their case rates. Test positivity is now at 3.7 percent and has increased slightly from 3.5 percent the previous week,” Dr. Khaldun said. “This is similar to where we were in the beginning of October. We are still doing quite well with our hospitalizations. Three-point-nine percent of inpatient beds are now being used to take care of patients with COVID-19 and that is down from 4.3 percent the previous week.”
“The number of outbreaks that local health departments are working on is now 565 and this is down from 631 the week before that. This past week the most reported new outbreaks included K-12 schools followed by manufacturing and construction and longterm care facilities. Overall, longterm care facilities still have the most ongoing outbreaks and make up over 40 percent of all ongoing outbreaks,” Dr. Khaldun said. 
Dr. Khaldun said she is concerned about the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, which healthcare officials say is more easily transmitted, and it has been confirmed to be present in Michigan.
“So far there have been 422 identified cases of the B.1.1.7 variant (in Michigan). About two thirds of those have been associated with an outbreak at a correctional facility, but there are other places in the state where we do not know where those individuals became infected with the variant, which means there is likely some undetected spread occurring in the community,” Dr. Khaldun said.
“Overall we are at a critical time in our fight against this pandemic. Our case rates have dropped significantly since the fall surge but they are still higher than they were last summer and they are no longer dropping. We have several outbreaks going on across the state,” Dr. Khaldun said. “We know the new more easily spread B.1.1.7 variant is present and if that variant becomes more prevalent across the state we could see a rapid increase in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.”

Crawford County Avalanche

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Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

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