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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Michigan defends COVID vaccine rollout, says it’s not as bad as data suggest

A top Michigan public health official defended the state’s vaccination rollout on Wednesday and said many more vaccines have been administered than reported.

 

State epidemiologist Sarah Lyon-Callo told Bridge Michigan that the state is doing far better administering the vaccine and blamed reports to the contrary on its data system.

Michigan ranks 33th among all states in terms of vaccinations per 100,000 people, according to the latest nationwide look at data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Michigan had ranked 39th on Tuesday, and federal officials have warned that states that are slow to administer vaccines may not get as many doses when the government releases doses from its reserves.

“If you are not using vaccines that you have the right to, then we should be rebalancing to states that are using that vaccine,” Alex Azar, the secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services, said at a news conference this week.

As of Wednesday, records show 332,000 people have gotten the first dose of the vaccine in Michigan. 

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The state has received over 831,000 doses from the two vaccine manufacturers, creating the impression that hundreds of thousands of doses are sitting in freezers unused.

But Lyon-Callo blamed a reporting lag, saying that while local health departments must report administered doses within 24 hours, pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens have three days to report vaccines given at long-term care facilities.

On Jan. 8, for instance, Michigan reported that 17,776 had received the vaccine on Jan. 6. Five days later, the tally for that day had grown to 24,336 because of the lag, Lyon-Callo said.

“We do not have a real-time dose tracker in the state of Michigan,” Lyon-Callo said.

She did not explain how other states, where CVS and Walgreens also administer vaccines and adhere to the same reporting rules, have avoided undercounts.

Her remarks came as residents statewide are confused and angry about the vaccination rollout

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said residents 65 and older this week could get the vaccine, but county health officials statewide have been bombarded with phone calls from residents desperate for a vaccine. Whitmer has continued to blame federal officials for the lack of vaccines.

Bridge reported this week that at least 15 health departments statewide aren’t taking appointments for anyone beyond frontline care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

The false promises have left many angry, state Rep. Graham Filler, R-DeWitt.

“They created an expectation when they said you could get the vaccine, but you can’t,” Filler said. “I’ve got so many elderly folks… who want to get the vaccine. And they probably can’t. But what we get is ‘it’s the feds’ fault.’ ”

Lyon-Callo said the state is aware of those concerns and is trying to make changes.

“We're working as rapidly as possible,” she said.

Since all states have pharmacies and are dealing with the same federal government, Lyon-Callo’s answers, and Whitmer’s continued complaints about the federal government strike Tony Daunt, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative organization, as “laziness and finger-pointing.”

“They had plenty of time to put a plan together and they failed,” Daunt said. “We need a better plan. We need better execution.”

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