Saturday, December 4, 2021

High demand, low supply for vaccines trouble local health systems

January 12, 2021
<p>After a spike in cases among students in East Lansing, MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. urged students, faculty and staff to sign up for a COVID-19 early detection program called Spartan Spit. Elements of the Spartan Spit kit photographed above on Sept. 14, 2020.</p>

After a spike in cases among students in East Lansing, MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. urged students, faculty and staff to sign up for a COVID-19 early detection program called Spartan Spit. Elements of the Spartan Spit kit photographed above on Sept. 14, 2020.

As the state opened up vaccine prioritization group 1B — including those aged 70 and older, first responders and corrections workers, school and child care staff, and other essential workers — the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) estimates that over 83,000 people are eligible to receive the vaccine. But, as calls and questions flood in, the county's health systems might have trouble keeping up.

Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said in a press release Monday that the ICHD can only vaccinate around 2,000 people each week. In five days, over 12,000 appointments have been scheduled. As of Monday, ICHD was booked through Feb. 24. Vail attributes this to not only a high demand but a low supply of vaccines.

"The demand for the vaccine is overwhelming,” Vail said. “We are working as fast as we can, but the outpouring of people has caused some technical glitches as well as a sizeable backlog of calls and emails."

As the ICHD deals with this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter early Monday to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting permission to directly purchase up to 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Sparrow Health System, which has received an influx of questions regarding COVID-19 vaccine distribution, has begun an invite-only distribution for group 1B and will begin a wider, public distribution starting as early as next week. They are currently finalizing a pre-registration system that Sparrow representative John Foren said will be available later this week.

"We're in the process of building the registration site," Foren said. "We're planning to do some public vaccinations on a very limited basis this week, but we're doing basically a soft launch."

Sparrow has received a total of 12,750 doses of the vaccine in recent weeks and is expecting another shipment of 4,850 on Jan. 12.

In response to an overflow of calls, MSU Health Care (MSUHC) has asked that people seeking vaccination information go to pharmacy.msu.edu.

MSUHC has been approved as a vaccination distribution site but has yet to receive information about when these vaccines will be available.

In an email to the Spartan community, MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. addressed vaccine safety concerns and encouraged the Spartan community to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

"Not only will receiving the vaccine aid in protecting you from getting sick, but it also will help protect your friends and loved ones from getting sick," Stanley said. "We all have a responsibility to do everything we can to provide a healthy and safe environment for those around us."

For most students, faculty and staff, this will mean getting vaccinated when Phase 2 of Michigan's vaccination plan begins, which covers everyone over the age of 16.

While county health systems handle mass amounts of calls, questions and bookings, Vail asks that the public be patient, and recognizes the urgent nature of vaccination.

"I ask the public to please be patient with health department staff as we try to assist everyone," Vail said. "Many people are desperate to get the shot or to see a loved one get the shot."

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