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Michigan COVID booster appointments filling up. How to get yours.

woman getting vaccine
There’s steady interest in the new COVID booster and flu shot, though experts acknowledge that — anecdotally at least — older residents and those with underlying health conditions are filling the first appointment slots. (Shutterstock)
  • Experts advise getting fall flu and COVID shots at once, in part for the sake of convenience
  • Those eager to get flu shots and the boosters are filling up appointment slots, at least in some Michigan areas.
  • To find a vaccine next to you, go to: www.vaccines.gov

Booster burnout? Vaccine hesitancy?

James Burke isn’t seeing it — at least right now and where he works.

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At the pharmacy Burke manages in Saline, just south of Ann Arbor, every one of his 36 vaccine slots each day are booked this week — mostly by those seeking the newly designed COVID booster.

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FedEx delivered 300 Pfizer doses on dry ice and 100 frozen Moderna doses last week to Saline Pharmacy. They arrived three days after shipments of 290 flu shots.

Another 900 flu shots are expected in the coming days. It’s unclear how many COVID boosters the pharmacy will get as the newly reformulated vaccine — tailored to combat omicron subvariants — are distributed through local health departments.

“It’s the allocation game,” Burke said Monday.

The BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants are driving nearly all COVID infections nationally right now.

While consumer demand falls short of an “influx” or “rush,” he said, “we already have more (doses) on order.”

In the Upper Peninsula’s Delta and Menominee counties, medical director Dr. Robert Yin was seeing much the same thing on Monday.

“We’re pretty much filled for this week,” Yin, medical director for Public Health of Delta & Menominee Counties, said of vaccine appointments.

Millions of booster doses are being shipped around the United States, meaning pharmacies or health departments may get varying shipments on different days. 

It’s unclear how many boosters have been shipped or delivered in Michigan, according to Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The dashboard tracking those deliveries is updated just once a week, she said.

While some doses are routed through local health departments, others are sent directly to more than a dozen national chains, including CVS, Rite Aid, Meijer, Walgreens and Walmart through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

Though large segments of the public may be numb to the threat of COVID, that wasn’t immediately evident in some parts of Michigan — at least now in the early rollout of the newly redesigned booster.  

The double threat of a fall COVID surge and an uncertain flu season may be driving demand, especially among older Michiganders and those with health conditions — asthma, diabetes, obesity — that put them at greater risk for the worst outcomes from a coronavirus infection, Yin said.

“I’m not surprised at the steady interest,” he said. “These are people who don’t want COVID.”

How to get an appointment

The Pfizer booster is authorized for anyone 12 years and older; the Moderna booster is authorized for anyone 18 years and older.

They are eligible for a newly formulated booster two months or or more after they receive the initial vaccines or their last booster.

To find the most convenient location for flu vaccines, COVID vaccines or COVID boosters, visit www.vaccines.gov

The list includes local pharmacies as well as national chains. Online scheduling is also available at national chains CVS, Rite Aid, Meijer, Walgreens and Walmart.

Michiganders can also call the state COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Then press 1 to schedule an appointment.

Flu and COVID as a “twofer”

Despite some fears it may be too early to get a flu vaccine, Yin and Burke echoed advice from Michigan experts last week and recommendations by the Biden administration, who assured that the flu vaccine likely will maintain most of its effectiveness throughout the flu season — a season Burke predicted could be “a nasty one.”

That’s because flu all but disappeared the past two years, warded off by COVID cautions that prompted many Michiganders to mask, wash hands and keep their distance from each other. In 2020, in fact, the flu all but zeroed out in Michigan.

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And some experts also worry that a particularly rough flu season in Australia that peaked in June — Australia’s wintertime flu season — is bound for the United States.

After two years with little trace of the flu, Michiganders “won’t have any immunity to it,” Burke said.

What does it cost?

Under the federal public health emergency — triggered under the Trump administration and continued by the Biden presidency — COVID vaccines continue to be free of charge.

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