‘We are talking life and death’ -- Livingston County residents speak out on vaccine shortage

Livingston County residents speak out on COVID vaccine shortage, demand answers
Livingston County residents speak out on COVID vaccine shortage, demand answers

HOWELL, Mich. – Of the nearly 2.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in Michigan, less than 13,000 have made it to Livingston County.

It’s a situation county officials said is unacceptable.

Feb. 19, 2021: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 579,284; Death toll now at 15,296

A special meeting was held in the county Thursday night that hoped to shed light on why Detroit receives 15,000 doses each week and Livingston County has received roughly 12,000 doses total.

The state uses the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to decide where vaccines are distributed. It’s a formula that includes socioeconomic status, disability, minority status, language spoken, type of housing, transportation and areas hit hardest by COVID.

“The research is clear,” said Livingston County commissioner Mitchell Zajak. “Our most vulnerable is our seniors”

Livingston County has the highest median income in the state.

Zajac is asking the state to scrap the SVI and stick to the science that seniors are the ones who are dying and need the shot.

The distribution of vaccines across the state has sparked a debate among Michiganders.

READ: Michigan’s race to get everyone vaccinated leaves some senior citizens behind

Detroit is receiving as many doses because so many don’t have transportation and can’t take off work. The idea is to stop the spread, something that had DDOT bus drivers concerned earlier about in the pandemic.

Ron Kardos said residents should look at the statistics. As of Feb. 19, 2021, Livingston County has 9,130 confirmed coronavirus cases and 122 COVID-related deaths, while Oakland County has 63,631 confirmed cases and 1,855 COVID-related deaths.

“Livingston has less of an urgent need than other counties,” Kardos said.

READ: Tracking COVID-19 cases, deaths by Michigan county

While the more vulnerable populations should be vaccinated first, Livingston County still needs more doses.

“When you have younger people who have access over those vulnerable, there’s a huge problem,” said state Sen. Lana Theis. “We are talking life and death.”

The Livingston County commission will vote on a resolution Monday calling for the state to scrap the SVI and put senior citizens first.

READ: How Livingston County residents can schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointment

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.