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Help on way in Michigan, as 4M COVID vaccines expected by April, Congress told

More than 4 million vaccine doses could flow into Michigan over the next five weeks if three pharmaceutical companies hit their targets to boost production, according to their testimony Tuesday before Congress.

The increase in production could ease the growing angst among senior citizens and others who are scrambling in Michigan — and across the country — to get the vaccine.

Executives from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington D.C. that they should be able to supply another 140 million doses nationwide by the end of March.

That would be nearly double the 75 million doses already manufactured and shipped across the country. Michigan has received 2.3 million doses, or 3.1 percent of the current distribution within the United States over the past 10 weeks, beginning in mid-December.

If the new doses are distributed the same way, the state could expect just over 4 million doses over five weeks — far more per week than it is currently receiving.

Health officials in Michigan are confident that there are enough people who would gladly step up to take advantage of a surge of supply.

 

Eric Pessell, health officer of Calhoun County, was succinct when asked if demand is sufficient to meet more supply. 

“Yes!” he said in an email to Bridge Michigan.

Linda Vail, health officer of Ingham County, said 70,000 people in her county have signed up for the vaccine already and more will as eligibility expands.

"Absolutely, demand is sufficient,” she said. “It also puts us on a timeline to get people vaccinated faster, which is our goal.”

Michigan has had just over 12 percent of all residents get at least one dose of the current two-dose vaccines and nearly 7 percent get both doses.

But residents across Michigan have complained that navigating online and phone-in vaccine appointment systems has been difficult. 

Currently the focus is on people 65 and older, who have been hardest hit by COVID-19, and on other front-line essential workers like teachers and law enforcement.

Health-care workers and senior citizens in long-term care facilities were the first to get vaccine priority and most have had the chance to get the vaccine.

So far, the vaccines have come from Pfizer-BioNTech, which has a manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan, and the Massachusetts-based Moderna.

Representatives from those two companies told the committee they will have shipped a total of 240 million doses — good to vaccinated 120 million people — by the end of March.

But millions more are coming after that: Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge said another 100 million will be shipped by the end of May and another 100 million by the end of July. 

Pfizer Chief Business Officer John Young told the committee the company should ship another 80 million by the end of May.

If the Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, which is currently being considered for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is approved, it could ship another 20 million by end of March as well, said Dr. Richard Nettles, a Johnson & Johnson vice president said.

Michigan officials have been cautious in predicting when everyone who is eligible for the vaccine — those 16 years and older — can get it. 

Under current projections, many in the state would not be getting the first dose until August.

But Elizabeth Hertel, the executive director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, told Michigan legislators recently that did not take into account Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine or a boost in supply.

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