Frustrations mount over Michigan vaccine distribution confusion

Vaccine now available to Detroiters who are at least 70-years-old

Seniors across Wayne County are struggling to get their doses of the coronavirus vaccine. For many, it’s literally a life-and-death situation.

DETROIT – Seniors across Wayne County are struggling to get their doses of the coronavirus vaccine. For many, it’s literally a life-and-death situation.

In a press conference Thursday, Mayor Mike Duggan said vaccine eligibility was expanded in Detroit to more essential city workers -- like daycare and postal workers -- and anyone 70-years-old and older.

READ: Can Michiganders be confident that COVID-19 order won’t be extended beyond Jan. 31?

“It’s been scary for us and many other people,” said Anita Siefer.

Anita and Dan Siefer said they’re prisoners in their Wayne County home. Dan, a survivor of Polio who uses oxygen every night, is particularly vulnerable to COVID.

When Wayne County pushed its population 65 and older to get their vaccine from health care providers, Dan’s chance to be vaccinated got worse.

“It’s like MGM Casino,” Dan said. “I’m thrown in with people from Oakland County, wherever their patients are.”

The couple lives near Detroit, but can’t take part in the city’s program where those who are at least 70 and drivers who are at least 65 are now getting vaccinated at the TCF Center.

READ: ‘This is the first step to getting our lives back’ -- Detroit begins vaccinating residents

Duggan said the vaccine distribution is going well for Detroit, but it is life and death for many, with more doses needed to properly vaccinate the state.

Anita said she’s worried she might get an appointment first, taking a vaccine that could have potentially been used on Dan.

“My wife and I are anxious,” said former Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak. “We have been hunkered down for months.”

Woronchak has also been struggling trying to schedule a vaccine appointment.

He said he visited Wayne County’s appointment request page and when he clicked on eligibility, it was a dead link.

“It’s frustrating,” Woronchak said.

State officials said they expected 300,000 doses per week, but they’ve only been receiving 60,00 per week.

Michigan Medicine put a temporary hold on scheduling vaccine appointments after they ordered 24,000 vaccines and only received 4,000.

Henry Ford Health System is prioritizing vaccinations for high-risk patients, 65 and older.

Oakland County is receiving about 1,900 vaccines per week.

Macomb County has 4,207 appointments scheduled and the current allotment has been exhausted.

Meijer stores are starting with 1,950 from the state.

“In our conversations with the state, we asked how many more can we get and they said, ‘Get them into arms and we will keep them coming,’” said Frank J. Guglielmi, with Meijer.

You can text COVID to 75049 to get in line for Meijer vaccines. They will start with four stores in Wayne County, but they haven’t revealed which ones. The store wants people to know that it will not be a walk-in clinic and residents must register ahead of time.

READ: How Detroit residents can schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointment

Supply vs Demand: The trouble getting enough COVID-19 vaccines for everyone eligible

People should call 313-230-0505 to schedule an appointment only if they meet the following qualifications:

  • Any resident of the City of Detroit who is age 70 or older.
  • Good neighbors who drive 70 year olds to TCF can also get vaccinated at same time -- if they are 65 or older
  • K-12 and daycare workers
  • Post Office Employees who live or work in Detroit
  • Employees of the City of Detroit or city-related agencies who are working from their regular job site (Employees working from home are not eligible at this time

Because supply of the vaccine is limited, residents are required to get an appointment. More information on how to set up an appointment can be found here.

Info: Michigan COVID-19 vaccinations: How to find appointments, info on phases

About the Authors:

Shawn Ley is an Emmy-Award winning reporter. In more than 20 years covering stories in television news, Shawn’s reporting has taken him from war-torn eastern Europe, to reporting from an F-16 fighter jet and now to the fast and furious breaking news of Detroit.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.