Michigan’s system of “phases,” which determines who receives a COVID vaccine first, has put health care providers in a difficult spot.
Some people seeking to receive a coronavirus vaccination may not be honest about their age or occupation in order to obtain a shot in the state’s earlier distribution phases -- and some have gotten the vaccine before it’s their turn.
Some Michiganders have been cutting in line for a vaccination, making it more difficult for those in need to receive the vaccine.
“I am exhausted. I have been doing this job for 37 years. I have never worked so hard than I have during this pandemic,” said Therese, a Metro Detroit health care worker.
Therese puts herself at risk working on the front lines as a therapist, helping kids at their homes as they struggle during the coronavirus pandemic. She is eligible to receive a COVID vaccine in Michigan, but Therese says trying to sign up with her healthcare provider -- St. Joseph Mercy Health System -- has become another full time job.
“I have tried every which way to get into that system -- daily, different times of day ... I’ve gotten kicked off, (the) system doesn’t work,” Therese told Local 4.
Other residents who are far younger and not frontline workers have apparently had success getting vaccines from St. Joseph Mercy.
One man even bragged on Facebook that he and his wife received shots from St. Joseph’s. When he was asked how he got so far ahead in line, he said, “I’m essential I guess,” with a winking emoji.
When Local 4 Defenders reached out to St. Joseph Mercy asking why some ineligible individuals are receiving vaccines ahead of those in need, officials said that extra vaccines at the end of a shift have to be used, so they contact patients on an on-call list to receive those vaccinations -- and some patients on that list are guilty of misrepresenting themselves.
“As part of the vaccination process, some of our larger hospitals created a link to a paper registration form directed to phase 1A health care workers and affiliate physician office staff. In some cases, it appears that the link was shared publicly resulting in unexpected submissions beyond 1A participants. When phase 1B opened up, we attempted to honor as many of these outside submissions as possible to individuals who were eligible in phase 1B,” St. Joseph officials wrote in a statement to Local 4. “In addition, some of our hospitals created a ‘Will Call’ list for those individuals who had submitted their interest knowing that there is sometimes extra doses of vaccine toward the end of a vaccine clinic shift. The Will Call list can be used to distribute these shots instead of having to dispose of the vaccine at day’s end. These ‘extra’ vaccines are available on a first-come, first serve basis on very short notice only to those who meet the current 1B criteria.
“As we move forward with vaccine administration within our community, we are in a position in which we need to trust that people who identify as being in an age group or essential occupation currently permitted by MDHHS are being truthful,” the statement concluded.
Health care workers like Therese find the improper distribution of virus vaccinations is disheartening and disappointing, saying it is a “scary” situation for her and her colleagues.
Therese is calling on the state to help ensure everyone with a medical license secures a vaccination appointment as soon as possible.