Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an executive order to create a bipartisan Protect Michigan Commission that will educate Michiganders about the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Today I signed Executive Order 2020-193, creating a bipartisan Protect Michigan Commission within the Department of Health and Human Services," Whitmer said at a press conference Thursday. "This commission will help raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, educate the people of our state and they'll help protect the health and safety and residents."
Whitmer also gave more information about COVID-19 vaccination availability at the presser. Critical workers in health care systems, including hospital workers and first responders, are among the initial group to receive the vaccine.
"It's going to take time, so that we can get this vaccine distributed to the general public," Whitmer said. "And no vaccine can end a pandemic immediately. But the good news is, we know what it takes to stay safe."
MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said that based on federal estimates, Michigan could get 84,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 173,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in the first shipment.
"Our team at MDHHS is actively preparing to be able to distribute a COVID vaccine when one is approved," Khaldun said. "This could happen as early as next week. 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."
Whitmer also announced relief plans for Michigan businesses with inside dining or recreation that have been impacted by state orders.
"Most entertainment and recreational venues and restaurants that depend on indoor dining can postpone their monthly sales use and withholding tax payments that are due Dec. 20," Whitmer said. "It can postpone them until Jan. 20 of 2021. The state treasury will waive all penalties and interest for 31 days. This is a crucial step in helping our businesses that are struggling."
Whitmer ended the conference by urging Michiganders to continue doing their part to help eradicate the virus, including avoiding gatherings around the upcoming holiday season.
"I will continue to do my part to keep all of you informed," Whitmer said. "We will continue to follow a fact-based approach to eradicating this virus. The leaders on the Protect Michigan Commission will do their part to ensure that everyone in Michigan has a plan to get vaccinated and feels comfortable doing so. We need everyone to acknowledge (the) personal responsibility that we all have in fighting this virus and to please do your part by wearing your mask, avoiding gatherings, practicing social distancing and washing your hands frequently."
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