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Watch Bridge’s Lunch Break discussion on COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan

Joneigh Khaldun Linda Vail

Did you miss Thursday’s Lunch Break discussion on COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan?

Not to worry. We recorded our Zoom conversation, where we were joined by the state’s Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun and Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. The conversation, led by Bridge Michigan health reporter Robin Erb, included discussion of how the vaccines are currently being distributed, what is being done to ensure equitable vaccine distribution and administration, how the new COVID-19 variants affect vaccine efficacy and distribution plans, and dug into how decisions are made at the state and county level.

Among the highlights:

Equity: Khaldun defended the state’s use of race and other socioeconomic factors to guide the distribution of the vaccine, one day after a Senate committee passed legislation barring the practice.

Like other states, Michigan distributes the vaccines to local communities not only by population but also by weighing areas’  “social vulnerability index”— a formula from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that includes 15 factors from race and languages spoken to access to transportation and poverty.

Khaldun said the index favors rural areas as much as urban ones and opponents of the system “if they understood it … might change their minds.”

“When you think about equity, it’s not about taking away from anyone. It’s about making sure everyone has the same access to the vaccine … and breaking down barriers to those who are the most vulnerable,” Khaldun said.

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Return to normal: Vail said that, by July, everyone in Michigan who wants a vaccine should be able to get one in Michigan.

Why no centralized rollout: Residents have been frustrated that availability and access to the vaccine varies by community, but Vail noted health planning is done at the local level in Michigan because it is a home rule state.

While Michigan officials “provide high-level strategy and guidance,” Khaldun said that local officials best know the conditions of their communities and can tailor vaccine distribution accordingly.

“Having someone who sits in Lansing (plan) what is happening in western U.P. is not practical,” Khaldun said.

We’ll be holding our next Lunch Break discussion in March. The topic and date will be announced in Bridge soon. If you have suggestions for topics you hope to see us cover in future discussions, email them to membership@bridgemi.com.

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