State continues to prepare for COVID-19 vaccine
Fri, 12/11/2020 - 11:19am caleb
Governor’s Executive Order 2020-193 establishes Protect Michigan Commission to help with vaccination ‘awareness’ and education
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
As companies work to get COVID-19 vaccines approved for use, state officials – during an update on Thursday, December 10 – said they’re working on plans to get Michigan residents vaccinated, including the creation of a new commission to help inform the public about the process.
During Thursday’s update, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the signing of Executive Order 2020-193, which creates the Protect Michigan Commission “as an advisory body within the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Governor Whitmer said it will be a “bipartisan commission” made up of a variety of state leaders – elected officials, healthcare officials, and others – who will help with the state’s COVID-19 vaccination effort.
“This commission will help raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness of approved COVID-19 vaccines. It will educate the people of our state and will help protect the health and safety of Michigan residents,” Governor Whitmer said.
“The Commission must consist of: the lieutenant governor; the chief medical executive; at least 50 members appointed by the governor representing various sectors and communities within this state and reflecting the diverse geographic, economic, racial, cultural, age, gender, and occupational composition of this state,” according to Executive Order 2020-193.
Governor Whitmer said people can apply online to be on the commission through michigan.gov/appointments. (From there, click on the VIEW ALL rectangle. Scroll down and click on Protect Michigan Commission. “Applications must be completed by 5 p.m. on Monday, December 28, 2020,” according to the website.)
According to Executive Order 2020-193, the duties of the Protect Michigan Commission include: “Provide public leadership to elevate and reinforce the importance of an approved COVID-19 vaccine; Identify barriers that may impede the acceptance of an approved COVID-19 vaccine by Michigan residents, which must include, but not be limited to, identifying areas or groups within this state that are likely to experience vaccine hesitancy; Support the development and implementation of an outreach action plan designed to overcome these barriers and encourage use of an approved COVID-19 vaccine; Coordinate with the Racial Disparities Task Force and other relevant task forces, committees and commissions working on similar issues and consider relevant recommendations; Provide input on, and assist in the distribution of, educational and promotional materials designed to heighten awareness of, and encourage use of an approved COVID-19 vaccine by Michigan residents; Identify opportunities to coordinate its efforts and resources with those of the various individuals and entities working on the federal, state, and local levels to ensure as widespread use as possible of an approved COVID-19 vaccine by Michigan’s population; and Provide other advice and take other action as requested by the governor.”
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive and one of several co-chairs of the Protect Michigan Commission, spoke about the vaccine effort, contact tracing in the state, and other aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan during the December 10 update.
“We are now at 415,200 cases and over 10,000 deaths, 10,213 confirmed as of yesterday,” Dr. Khaldun said. “I can tell you that these cases and deaths are not just numbers, these are people’s family members, they’re friends, they’re colleagues, and every life lost was an important one.”
“I am an ER doctor. I just worked a shift in the emergency department this past weekend. I can tell you that people are not just automatically recovering from this virus. This is not a cold that you just get over. Many people are still presenting to the emergency department weeks after they have been diagnosed with complications and we are still learning more and more about the long term health consequences of having this virus, so we just have to remain vigilant,” Dr. Khaldun said.
Dr. Khaldun said some of the state’s COVID-19 numbers are encouraging, but the test positivity rate is still “quite high.”
“So here’s where we are on the three key metrics that we are tracking. Cases are at 414 cases per million people per day overall as a state and have been declining for the past 19 days. All areas of the state have seen a decline in the case rate. The percent of tests that are positive is at 14 percent. This number has been fluctuating up and down for the past few weeks but has not changed significantly and is still quite high,” Dr. Khaldun said. “Hospitalizations are trending down overall for the past week and decreased in all but two regions in the state.”
“Currently, 10 percent of inpatient beds have COVID-19 patients in them. We’ve seen a slight decrease in testing as well. The state averaged a little over 56,500 tests a day last week compared to over 59,000 tests per day the previous week,” Dr. Khaldun said. “It is so important that people seek a test if they feel sick or think they may have been exposed. That is the only way we will be able to know exactly where this virus is so that we can slow its spread. There are hundreds of testing sites across the state and many of them are free.”
Dr. Khaldun encouraged people to visit michigan.gov/coronavirustest to find a site. (Click on the FIND A TEST SITE rectangle and input your location into the appropriate search box. The site lists only two testing sites “within 15 miles” of Grayling: the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services site at Kirtland Community College and Walgreens of Grayling.)
Dr. Khaldun said the state’s contact tracing efforts are behind.
“We are still seeing far more cases every day than our state and local health department staff are able to keep up with every day,” Dr. Khaldun said. “This means that there are people with the virus who may have a delay in getting in touch with a public health professional to talk to them about their close contacts. These close contacts risk having the virus themselves and spreading it to others.”
Dr. Khaldun said the state is expecting a “limited allocation” of the vaccine after it is approved and initially distributed, and talked about who would be first to be vaccinated.
“Our team at MDHHS is currently preparing to be able to distribute a COVID vaccine when one is approved. This could happen as early as next week,” Dr. Khaldun said on December 10. “A vaccine will only be approved when it has gone through three phases of clinical trials, including tens of thousands of people and the top scientists and doctors in the country have reviewed the data and determined that the vaccine is actually safe. There are two vaccines right now that are in the final approval processes.”
“Once they are approved we expect to receive a limited allocation of these vaccines and expect to receive shipments every week that will go to our hospitals, our local health departments, our pharmacies, and other partners,” Dr. Khaldun said. “Based on recent estimates from the federal government, Michigan will receive about 84,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine if it becomes available next week in that first allocation. The Moderna vaccine is a different vaccine that is just behind the Pfizer vaccine in the approval process. If it is approved, and that may be later this month as well, recent federal estimates suggest we will receive 173,000 doses of this Moderna vaccine in our first shipment.”
“These are both estimates and depend on the federal government and the manufacturing process. The amount and the timing of these shipments could still change, but we are still making plans to send vaccines to hospitals and local health departments across the state that have the ability to administer and store them,” Dr. Khaldun said.
“The first priority for vaccination will be frontline healthcare workers as well as people living and working in long term care facilities. As we get more vaccine we’ll be able to offer the vaccine to more and more people, including other essential workers, people who have other underlying medical conditions, and people who are over the age of 65. We hope by late spring we will be able to offer the vaccine to the general public,” Dr. Khaldun said.
“It is important that every adult in the state starts making plans for getting the vaccine. Talk to your doctor now about your risk factors and when the vaccine may become available to you. Know that you will need to get two doses of the vaccine spread three weeks apart if you get the Pfizer vaccine or four weeks apart if you get the Moderna vaccine, and it is very important that you know what to expect,” Dr. Khaldun said. “These vaccines work by preparing your body to fight the real virus if it comes into contact with it. That means that many people will get mild symptoms after getting the vaccine like a sore arm, a low grade fever, or general malaise. That is something to expect and it means that the vaccine is working.”
During the question and answer portion of the December 10 update, Governor Whitmer said the state does not have plans to order people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There are no conversations around mandates. I think that’s important for me to be very clear on,” Governor Whitmer said.
Governor Whitmer, earlier in the December 10 update, asked Michigan residents to continue wearing masks, practice social distancing, and avoid gatherings as the country moves toward vaccination efforts.
“No vaccine can end a pandemic immediately, but the good news is we know what it takes to stay safe, so while it’s going to take time and require all of us working together, there is great optimism and I think it’s important to remember that the science here is settled. We know that wearing a mask and practicing social distancing and avoiding indoor gatherings where the virus spreads easily from person to person, if we can do these things in the coming months we’ll be that much stronger when vaccines are more available. A study has shown that just taking these simple actions could save as many as 100,000 American lives in the coming months, so we just need to work together to keep getting it done,” Governor Whitmer said.
On December 11, the governor’s office announced that the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved “Pfizer’s Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine.”
“This is great news for our families, frontline workers, small businesses, and economy,” Governor Whitmer said.