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Michigan officials: COVID vaccine to be distributed in 4 phases, prioritize frontline workers

Coronavirus vaccine could be distributed in Michigan as early as next week

A nurse prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, as the U.K. health authorities rolled out a national mass vaccination program. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)
A nurse prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, as the U.K. health authorities rolled out a national mass vaccination program. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LANSING, Mich. – As the first wave of coronavirus vaccines are being distributed across the U.S., Michigan officials have determined who in the state will receive the vaccine first -- and second, third, etc.

Due to limited quantities of and high demand for a COVID-19 vaccine, states are planning to administer the vaccinations in multiple phases, prioritizing individuals who are at greater risk.

On Friday, Dec. 11, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced that coronavirus vaccines will be distributed in Michigan in the following phases:

  • Phase 1A: Paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home, as well as residents of long-term care facilities.
  • Phase 1B: Persons 75 years of age or older and frontline essential workers in critical infrastructure.
  • Phase 1C: Individuals 16 years of age or older at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 infection and some other essential workers whose position impacts life, safety and protection during the COVID-19 response.
  • Phase 2: Individuals 16 years of age or older.

UPDATE -- Dec. 23, 2020: The MDHHS adjusted their guidelines to include individuals 75 years of age and older to Phase 1B.

UPDATE -- Dec. 16, 2020: The MDHHS expanded their initial guidance to allow children 16 years old and older to receive the vaccine.

The state’s plan for prioritized phases of vaccine distribution follows guidance developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that was announced on Dec. 1.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized widespread use of both Pfizer’s COVID vaccine and Moderna’s COVID vaccine.

MDHHS officials say that it is estimated that COVID-19 vaccines will be available to everyone who is recommended to receive it by late spring of 2021.

“The COVID-19 vaccine will help all our communities eliminate the virus,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “Because initial allocations of vaccine will be limited, we must prioritize how the vaccine will be distributed across the state and will use the guidance and principles outlined by the CDC and national experts. We want every adult to be planning now for how they will get their vaccine once it becomes available to them.

“The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine is an important step toward reducing the toll the virus is taking on our state,” Khaldun added in a statement on Dec. 16. “As we receive further guidance from our federal partners, these prioritizations may change. While we roll these vaccines out across the state, it is important everyone continues to do their part in fighting this pandemic by wearing masks, washing hands, and avoiding gatherings.”

The phases for vaccine distribution in Michigan are likely to overlap, officials said Friday. One phase does not need to be complete in order for another phase to begin.

“The timing of the start of vaccination in a phase is dependent on guidance from CDC and ACIP, the supply of vaccine from the manufacturer, how vaccine is allocated from the federal level to Michigan and the capacity to administer the vaccine to populations,” reads an MDHHS press release.

Coronavirus vaccinations will require two doses per individual, which will be administered about three to four weeks apart.

COVID-19 vaccines will be offered at no cost to Michigan residents, though officials say some health care providers may bill individuals for administrative costs. Michigan health officials are hoping to vaccinate 70 percent of residents over the age of 18 years by the end of 2021.

Officials say vaccination phases and priority groups announced Friday may later change as more information becomes available.

Initially, five Michigan hospitals would be the first to get the vaccine, according to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. The hospitals are Beaumont Hospital in Troy, Ascension Macomb-Oakland in Warren, University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Spectrum Health Butterworth in Grand Rapids and MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland.

There are about 300 sites across Michigan that have signed up to receive the vaccine, which over the next two weeks, should be about 85,000 doses from Pfizer and 173,000 from Moderna.

Click here to learn more about the coronavirus vaccine and how it will be distributed in Michigan.

Michigan unveils COVID-19 vaccine rollout phases, starting with health care workers
Michigan unveils COVID-19 vaccine rollout phases, starting with health care workers

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Answering COVID questions: What is the science behind these vaccines?

From Dr. Frank McGeorge:

Many people have questions about the two vaccines closest to approval. Keith from Macomb asks:

“Will the method used to create the vaccines alter my DNA?”

Timothy from Highland asks:

“I was told I cannot take live viruses due to immune suppressant medication. Will the benefit outweigh the risk in this case?”

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, meaning they are not live virus vaccines. In fact, they are about the furthest thing from it.

These vaccines use artificially-produced genetic code that gets our bodies to produce only the spike protein that’s on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Once we produce that spike protein, our immune system reacts to it and generates antibody immunity.

Although a theoretic possibility, based on animal experiments and existing human data, there has not been any evidence that the small pieces of messenger RNA can become part of our DNA. it’s estimated that over a period of weeks the mRNA is naturally destroyed after it has been used to produce spike proteins.

What if you already had COVID?

Andy from Plymouth and several other viewers are asking similar questions:

“If you have already had a known case of COVID and recovered, should you still get the vaccine shots? Should you go to the end of the line?”

While that sounds reasonable, there are a couple of considerations:

We don’t know precisely how long-lasting or effective the immunity that someone gets from a natural infection is. For that reason, at this time the plan is to give the vaccine to people regardless of past infection.

However, there has been some discussion that in a situation where there is a limited amount of vaccine and some people know they have been infected, they might voluntarily delay their vaccination.

Should you get an antibody test to determine your ranking for the vaccine?

Another related question is if you should get an antibody test to help determine your ranking for receiving the vaccine? The idea is if you have the antibodies, then you would go to the end of the line.

This may also seem logical, but the problems are that antibody tests are not reliable enough to ensure that you have protective immunity. Moreover, practically speaking, administering the vaccine already will be a challenge. Adding one more cog in that wheel definitely would not be beneficial.


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