Thousands of Michigan health workers are turning down COVID vaccines

By Monday evening, Michigan had distributed 128,390 vaccines of the 379,329 shipped to it. (


Thousands of health care workers across Michigan who would be first in line for a coronavirus vaccine are declining to take it, potentially slowing efforts to curb a pandemic that has killed over 352,000 nationally and more than 12,600 in Michigan.

In Wayne County, just over half of first responders agreed to take a COVID  vaccine, with roughly 600 of 1,600 declining, a county spokesperson told Bridge Michigan on Monday.

In Ingham County, it's not precisely clear how many hospital and emergency workers have declined the vaccine. But based on a survey among health department staff and national surveys, it appears that more than 1 in 3 health workers are declining the coronavirus vaccine for now, according to Linda Vail, the county's health officer. 

Hesitancy among workers in healthcare settings may help explain why Michigan has had one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country.

As of midday Monday, just under 100,000 people in Michigan have been given the first dose of the two-stage vaccine, or 992 people for every 100,000. Only six other states had a lower rate of vaccinations — North Carolina, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Kansas, according to data from the federal government.

Nationally, the rate is 1,390 vaccinations per 100,000 — or 40 percent higher than the Michigan rate. (Monday evening the state updated its vaccination data to show nearly 129,000 doses had been administered but updated comparisons with other states were not immediately available.)

Though surveys in recent months underscored uncertainty about the vaccine among much of the public, health leaders told Bridge they found it disheartening to see reluctance among workers within their industry. 


“There were some [EMS] departments that everybody said, ‘We will come and take it,’” Dr. Mouhanad Hammami, chief health strategist at the Wayne County Department of Health, Veterans & Community Wellness, told Bridge. 

Indeed, some EMS units sent more than a dozen workers in a truck for vaccines. “But then you have, maybe in a company, 25 EMS workers and only two said, ‘We want the vaccine.’ ”

Health care workers, he said, are “privileged to be amongst the first” to get the vaccine, and presumably “would be more informed about … a vaccine trial and have a little bit more trust.” 

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said there have been “no significant obstacles” to distribution of the vaccine, which the state hopes to administer to 5.6 million people, or 70 percent of the state’s population over age 16.

“This is the most massive vaccination effort ever undertaken in the country, and every state is grappling with vaccine distribution going slower than needed to end this pandemic as quickly as possible,” Lynn Sutfin of MDHHS said in an email. “Launching mass vaccinations over the December holiday season created delays with some individuals intentionally delaying vaccines for themselves until after the holidays and clinics not being operational due to the holidays.”

Sutfin did not directly address why Michigan has had one of the nation’s lowest rates of COVID vaccinations. 

She said the state does not yet have data on vaccinations among staff at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Several other states, including Ohio, have reported high rates of vaccine refusal among staff. 

Sutfin said the state is looking to improve vaccination rates by encouraging hospitals and health departments to administer 90 percent of doses within seven days of receipt and clarifying who can get the vaccine, as well as telling hospitals that they can vaccinate health care workers who may not be their own employees.

“We will continue to evaluate our overall strategy to increase vaccination numbers in Michigan,” she said.

Others note some hiccups in the logistics of vaccine distribution. 

Ruthanne Sudderth, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, a hospital industry group, said hospitals tell the state how many doses they need in the following week, with the state relaying that message to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

But she said that when the federal government notifies hospitals about the delivery of new doses, it generally offers a range of dates rather than a firm delivery time. That makes it challenging for hospitals to set up staff and location times for employee vaccination drives, and some have been canceled because of those problems.

“So far, the primary barrier to faster vaccination has been the lack of consistent and timely information about how much vaccine hospitals in Michigan will receive from the federal government,” she said in an email to Bridge. “With little lead time on quantity and arrival day, it’s very difficult to plan daylong employee vaccine clinics and to know what other community health care providers the hospitals should try to vaccinate.”

Sudderth said preliminary reports she has seen from hospitals show 75 percent to 80 percent of eligible health care workers are agreeing to get the vaccine.

As of noon Monday, federal data showed Michigan hospitals and health departments had helped the state administer 26 percent of the 378,925 doses that have been shipped to the state, which compares nationally to 32 percent of 15.4 million doses. (Data released by the state Monday evening showed that 34 percent of doses have now been administered in Michigan, but updated numbers for other states were not immediately available.)

At Hillsdale Hospital in southern Michigan, staff has been able to administer as many doses as it has received, said Rachel Lott, director of marketing and development.

Lott acknowledged that some workers in the first priority phase, frontline health care workers, declined to be vaccinated, opening up availability to others in the second tier, including teachers and police officers. She also said some workers who initially declined shots have since agreed to be vaccinated.

In Ingham County, officials have moved down the list of healthcare workers so available vaccines are used as quickly as possible, said Vail, the health officer. The health office will call organizations with eligible workers — an EMS group, for example — and ask how many vaccines they’ll need.

A group of, say, 40 workers, might have 25 people who will want the vaccine, she said.

As soon as they’ve set aside slots and scheduled those 25 people for their drive-thru vaccination clinic, officials move to another group of frontline responders and down through the subgroup of health care workers deemed eligible as Phase 1a, or top priority, recipients under the state’s vaccine distribution plan. Currently, Ingham is the only county on the state’s vaccination dashboard where the number of doses administered is listed as “high.”

Any health worker or long-term care resident or staff as defined in Phase 1a is eligible for a vaccine in Ingham County, she said. In the coming days, the county will open up available vaccines to Phase 1b, which are other “frontline essential workers and individuals 75 years of age and older,” she said.

“The last thing we want is any vaccine sitting here,” she said.

Ingham and others say they hope that those who are reluctant to get the vaccine will change their minds as co-workers and friends receive it. 

Mistrust of an impending COVID-19 vaccine ran high across the United States in the early months of the pandemic, as governments across the globe raced to develop an effective vaccine. The rapid pace of vaccine trials worried some, with skepticism abetted by unfounded conspiracy theories. More recently, public acceptance of the vaccines has improved, as positive results about the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness were publicized and two were approved for use in the United States.

The first vaccine was approved for emergency use in the nation less than a month ago. There has been little time — sandwiched between testing and contact tracing and caring for the sick — to educate the public.

“Certainly there is room for education,” said Nick Derusha, president of the Michigan Association of Public Health, which represents the state’s 45 local health departments.

Pediatrician Kevin Dazy and Cortney Mazur, a pediatric nurse practitioner, are among health care workers at Children’s Hospital of Michigan who have been vaccinated. (Photo courtesy of Children’s Hospital of Michigan)

Kevin Dazy, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, was surprised to learn of health care workers who were reluctant to get the vaccine.

On Friday, he and his colleagues are scheduled to get their second dose. Most of his colleagues, he said, are thrilled that the vaccine is available. Some are frustrated that they haven’t been yet scheduled to get it, he said.

His wife, a nurse, also has received the vaccine.

“We want to keep our parents safe. We want to keep our patients safe, and we want to move this along,” said Dazy, a father of a kindergartner and a newborn.

“I want my 5-year-old in school,” he said.

Cortney Mazur, a nurse practitioner at Children’s, was likewise surprised. She said she was aware only of a few co-workers who were reluctant to get vaccines, but they “more and more, they are coming around.”

There may be other reasons for the slow distribution of vaccines, including the distance between vaccine shipments and recipients in some rural areas. Vaccines were delayed more than a week for residents and staff in long-term care facilities in a four-county health district in the eastern Upper Peninsula, for example. That’s because there are no Walgreens or CVS pharmacies in those Luce, Mackinac, Alger and Mackinac counties, said Kerry Ott, spokeswoman for the LMAS District Health Department.

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Mary Fox
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 9:12am

Why are you a health worker if you don't believe in science?

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 10:36am

Just make being up to date on vaccinations a job condition for them, and make this vaccination one of the required ones. I suspect some of them are actually saying "I'm not actually exposed that much in my job, and I'm not in a high risk group - give it to someone who needs it sooner." So, give them 90 days to get vaccinated, if they really aren't in contact with problem patients. Most primary care doctors would probably be in that group. A lot of specialties would be too. They're really not at much higher risk that grocery store cashiers. But we still need to get the grocery store people vaccinated too.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 5:26pm

So you want to make it impossible for people with severe allergies to keep their jobs? Some folks have been advised not to get this for health reasons.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 2:02pm

Health cate workers can believe in science and still be skeptical.

Skeptics do not doubt every claim, only those backed by insufficient evidence or by data that have been improperly collected, are not relevant or cannot support the rationale being made.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 3:35pm

Because science can be flawed.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 7:14pm

Yes, like the science of flatearth or creationism.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 6:32pm

Maybe they believe in probability.

Wed, 01/06/2021 - 7:55am

Science once said Thalidomide was safe. Science said abestos was safe. Every year we have drugs pulled off the market that science said were safe and that was after years, if not decades, of studies. But we can trust them now.

Of course we know that modern "health" care has little to do with health and is more about medicine and supporting the pharmaceutical companies

Wed, 01/13/2021 - 6:59pm

Well said. Could probably add Vioxx, hormone replacement therapy.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 9:14am

Depose Grinch Whitmer!

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 12:35pm

Michigan needs to disperse these vaccinations like there is a Pandemic! Come on, let's address the individuals who are more prone to contracting this in a serious way. Those individuals over 65, who want the shots should be able to get them. Let CVS, Walgreens, Walmart start addressing this need. The Health Department can continue to address shelters, hospitals, etc. Our current way of addressing this issue is ridiculous...people are dying. Michigan can do better!!

Mark A
Wed, 01/06/2021 - 4:22am

I went for my scheduled vaccination and was almost turned away along with another individual because our names were not on the hospital's sign-in sheet, a clerical error. I was told I needed to produce a document showing I was eligible. Seriously? There is vaccine sitting in a freezer and you are turning away people here and there because you don't keep good records or tell people what documentation they need to get their shot? Too much bureaucracy, too much emphasis on who "doesn't want the vaccine". Vaccinate those in need who want to be vaccinated first. We need to vaccinate vaccinate vaccinate.

Wed, 01/06/2021 - 9:47pm

People don't need an ID to vote, but to get a vaccine it's required.

Linda Wilkey
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 2:08pm

Please - Learn about the very real danger to yourself, your loved ones, your fellow Michiganders, and our entire country. Our entire world is in an all out battle to save peoples lives, by trying to fight off a deadly disease that has already killed 352,000 people in America. If you love our state of Michigan, you should be aware that we just passed a horrible milestone…… 500,000 Michiganders have gotten sick with the COVID-19 virus so far, and because too many people were reckless over the holidays, our infection rate went up 54% just this last week! That means within a few weeks the death rate will go up again. Heart breaking!
It will take months for everyone to get a vaccine to stop Covid it in its tracks. But in the meantime, another hundred thousand more people could die while waiting for the shot that will protect them.

There is absolutely no scientific data to support any of the conspiracy theories floating around on social media or repeated by President Trump. This is not a political issue between Democrats and Republicans…… This is a matter of life and death, and science and truth! Please consider that our Governor Whitmer has totally dedicated herself 24/7 to try to educate our citizens so they will not make a fatal mistake and get sick with COVID-19. She is doing all she can to save your life and your love ones, whether you believe in science and the deadliness of this disease or not. Please do not fight her…… She is trying to save lives!

Get serious, Am...
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 7:17pm

Since yesterday two family members in separate states tested positive, one in Michigan and one in Florida. Chances are high others in their homes are also positive. Every day it hits closer to home.

Wed, 01/06/2021 - 8:23am

We do know the facts. The chances of people getting the virus is low, the chances of them dying from it if they get is low. The vast majority of people who have gotten it or will get it will recover with no lasting effects.

If there is no scientific data to support what you call "conspiracy theories" that also means there is no scientific data to support your claims. Dismissing them as "conspiracy theories" just shows how uninformed those using that term are. Keeping in mind that domestic spying and stingray devices were also once labeled "conspiracy theories" by Democrats too.

If this isn't a political issue, then why have Democrats weaponized it and turned it into a political issue? Yes, Whitmer is working 24/7, but to indoctrinate us, not educate. To use her bully pulpit to thwart the will of the voters and force her dictates on us, all while she, and her husband/family, ignore her own orders.

According to John Hopkins University the mortality rate of covid in the US is 1.7%. In Michigan the rate is so low that Whitmer routinely conducts "vital records reviews" to inflate the number of deaths. This is what SCIENCE says.

Adults don't need a politician to tell them to stay home if they're sick, we don't need politicians dictates to "save lives". If fact, SCIENCE shows that her actions have increased deaths due to suicide, domestic violence and violence is general. Murders and violent crime in Michigan is way up in 2020. Suicides are up, substance abuse is up. If, as you claim, she's trying to save lives, she's failing spectacularly.

Wed, 01/06/2021 - 7:33pm

Very well said. Glad to know there are still some people out there with common sense who are not afraid of their own shadow.

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 12:47am


Jake K
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 9:17am

Thank goodness that these naysayers weren't around during previous pandemics like small pox, TB, and the like. Where would we be if the associated vaccines were denied by 50% of the population? This is one of those situations where I truly believe that the reporting of the media as they worked to disgrace the Trump administration also framed the vaccine development process with negativity. Sad.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 7:19pm

It's only because Trump is a habitual psychotic liar. That's not the media's fault. It's his and his enablers' fault.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 10:29am

This isn't hard. "Your scheduled date is x, your scheduled time is y. Do not be late. If you are not in line at your scheduled time, you will be rescheduled for another day. We will be over-scheduling slightly to make sure all available doses are administered." Each location that gets doses gets scheduled for more at the rate they're administering them. One place uses 1000 doses while another just uses 200? The first location gets more doses, the second doesn't. Too short staffed to administer your doses? We'll send a few more people your way (and pay them extra to do it.) These vaccinations are our way out of this. No delays should be accepted.

Emily C
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 10:44am

All the physicians I know already got the first dose. I am young, but have some underling conditions. So I was fortunate to get the vaccine. I teared with emotion when I got it because I felt so lucky and look forward that soon we can all finally move on, get back to some sense of normalcy. The actual shot was literally imperceptible. However the next day my should felt badly bruised, but no marks and I had one moment of dizziness, but after I drank some water, I felt fine. Nothing unusual since. Can't wait for second dose. Reluctant people should think about how dumb it would be to give a problematic vaccine to our best and brightest in society, our physicians, people we all rely on so much. Don't believe the dumb conspiracies. They make no sense. Get the vaccine as soon as you can.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 10:45am

I wonder how many are people who have already had Covid-19? That is the case at the nursing home my daughter works at. She doesn't have to be tested for 90 days post-infection, so why would she take a vaccine for something the health authorities believe she is immune to? Making vaccines available for those who have not had the virus yet makes sense for many frontline workers.

Gary Lea
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 10:50am

My hope is for an accelerated time-line, advancing my (senior status( vaccination to around St. Patrick's day!

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 10:53am

We should take this with a grain of salt, for now. Give the vaccine to those who desperately WANT it. So many people can't wait for their turn. Most of the others will come around eventually, once they see people they trust already got the vaccine. Covid 19 is no joke or hoax. Hospitals are starting to deny admittance to patients in need because they are overwhelmed. Eventually it will be impossible to travel, attend school, etc. without a vaccine passport. So don't sweat the people living in deep denial. Just be glad you can take their place for now, if you are lucky.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 10:54am

Yes, it's downright depressing what healthcare workers believe about the vaccine. I dont worry about it's safety but rather, about it's effectiveness. Right now employers cannot require staff to take it since covid vaccines are Emergency Use Only classified. Once the EUA designation is removed, the employer can require it as grounds for continued employment (as most do now with the flu vaccine) and I predict that inoculations will skyrocket. If we don't get enough folks to take the vaccine, the economy will suffer the consequences more than individual citizens who will continue to take precautions against mingling closely with others. That won't be helpful for venues that depend on crowds. It's embarrassing to watch educated health providers become brainwashed so easily. It can happen to anyone who allows themselves to be be exposed every day to conspiracy theorists.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 11:07am

... Health care workers, he said, are “privileged to be amongst the first” to get the vaccine, and presumably “would be more informed about … a vaccine trial and have a little bit more trust.”...

If sixty percent of the so called “privileged and informed “ want nothing to do with it, that should tell you all you need to know.

Jim C
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 7:25pm

Most of those that don't want it feel there are others who could use it more, not because they are afraid. Healthcare workers tend to put others first, something you might not understand, especially if you believe "greed is good."

Ed Haynor
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 11:20am

Trumps denialism and anti-science beliefs has infected many healthcare workers. One reason why I'll insist that when I visit my doctor, that he and his nurses/staff have been vaccinated.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 12:16pm

I want a vaccine asap! I would like to know how we sign up to get in line. I haven't seen any information how the average person gets in line.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 12:20pm

Some health workers feel guilty to get vaccinated before others who might be more vulnerable.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 12:25pm

Sadly some people are using the "vaccine hoax or danger" arguments to selfishly stay away from their elderly members who are vulnerable, lonely, and in need. "Sorry, can't visit you because you might get sick." They are just waiting/hoping to inherit some money sooner than later.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 12:26pm

It is sad to see how slow Michigan is dispersing the vaccine. This is a pandemic, people are dying daily. We should be addressing this 24-7.Vaccinations should be available to all individuals over 70 since this seems to be the age where serious infections are occurring. There are people who are waiting and waiting. I have 97 year old, World War 2 Vet father-in - law who is confined to his home because he can't get ashot...come on. Open it up to those elderly that want it. Let CVS, Walgreens, Walmart etc. disperse it. Let the Health Dept deal with shelters, hospitals, homeless and Senior Centers. This is way too slow!

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 7:27pm

Maybe you should go to England or another country with social medicine. Michigan is no slower than any other state.

Wed, 01/13/2021 - 7:42pm

West Virginia is twice as fast as MI. 6% of their population have received it and MI is about 3%
My wife got an appt with the health dept in a month. When she signed up all the appts were gone in 20 minutes. Why don't they do this twice as fast or 10 times as fast? They are sitting on 75% of the doses they have and that percent has not changed in two weeks. Is it really that hard to give jabs? I think that percent of un-administered doses should be 0%

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 10:17pm

I totally agree with you Bart. My 97 year old dear friend was just hospitalized with COVID- her assisted living facility is over-run with cases and none of them have been vaccinated. Yet local hospitals are vaccinating "volunteers" who haven't worked since COVID started!!! Seriously- what happened to a sense of justice and ethics??

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 12:30pm

There is also the very real possibility that many of those health care workers that are declining the vaccine may have allergies & carry EPI pens and are afraid they will have an adverse reaction. Just because you work in health care doesn't mean that you don't also have your own health challenges.

Thomas Delgado
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 1:38pm

Your article never sited the reasons the health care professionals were concerned about receiving the vaccine. Your opportunity to dismiss false claims and you blew it.

Kathleen Kurdziel
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 2:15pm

If they don’t want it, I’ll take theirs

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 2:31pm

Not only are they refusing the vaccine, but I know of at least one mid Michigan ER nurse that threw a New Years Eve party with at least 24 people in attendance, drinking, not wearing masks, etc... Not making it up either... She posted 58 photos on Facebook for the whole world to see.... Sickening really. It's people like this that will cause this thing to drag on forever and definitely not the person I would want at my bedside should I come in to the ER for an ailment...

Fred Bear
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 4:20pm

A close relative (nurse) is refusing to get the vaccine over concerns about becoming infertile. The top answers from a quick google show the fear is unfounded. But it was on facebook, so it must be true.... JFC

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 4:39pm

Your article never really explains why, but seems to assume the hesitancy is about safety. From other articles I've seen, that's not necessarily the case. There are health care providers that don't believe they should be first at the expense of others that are at higher risk, particularly if they have already recovered from an earlier infection. I think that's admirable, and not a bad call based on the available science.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 6:21pm

"It is okay not to take the vaccine, or put on a mask." -- Charles Darwin.

Yaw Way
Tue, 01/05/2021 - 7:32pm

"Viruses are proof of evolution." -- Charles Darwin.
"Trump is proof of devolution." -- God

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 7:34pm

MI messed up by not having a plan when to move to the next group of people. If some don't want to be vaccinated, fine. But don't twiddle your thumbs while those who do want it cannot because the government stands in the way.

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 10:11pm

I live in Kalamazoo MI and have heard of no nursing homes or long term care facilities where residents have been vaccinated (one is currently over-run with the disease in residents and workers) and yet one of the biggest hospitals in the area is vaccinating it's "volunteers" who haven't worked since Covid started (and are not part of IA or IB roll out). This is totally unethical. While I am happy for anyone fortunate enough to be vaccinated, I am so very saddened for those who are "first on the list"(and their families) and being ignored during the roll out.

Wed, 01/06/2021 - 7:44am

Another "win" for wretched Gretchen and to think, only 2 more years under her "leadership"

Detroit MD
Wed, 01/06/2021 - 8:09am

There is an issue here in Detroit where the registry list has not been updated. As a vaccine recipient from more than a week ago, I logged into my account and saw that it does not show that I got the vaccine.

Wed, 01/06/2021 - 8:11pm

I think it is important for people to make their own decisions on this issue. We can't allow our freedom of choice to be dictated by fear. A vaccine that was created in 9 months is likely to have some long range side effects we are not aware of yet. Ask questions. Will this affect fertity? What if you are pregnant? Were tests done to determine the effects on a fetus?
Pray hard and be kind!

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 12:44am

Consider maybe most healthcare workers have already been exposed to Covid-19 and therefore already immune to it!!! Why take a vaccine when supply is short and you’re already immune?? There’s always two sides to the story.. people have got to stop fighting each other if we want peace!!!

Vince Caruso
Fri, 01/08/2021 - 10:46am

For Gosh Sake, get the vaccine! The life you save may be, not yours but, someone you love and will greatly miss and you may forever be remorseful. Dying from Covid is many times very painful and scary for the victim.
Get the Vaccine for Michigan's Sake!

T. Chaplin
Sat, 01/09/2021 - 12:18pm

I am part of the vulnerable population (age, weight and previous history of multiple occurrences of pneumonia). I personally vow to ask any healthcare worker I interact over the next year with "Have you been vaccinated". If they reply NO I will respectfully ask for another healthcare worker that HAS been vaccinated.

Mon, 01/11/2021 - 10:12pm

I read about COVID 19 reported cases and deaths daily, I also read about the reluctancy to get the vaccine. Is there any information or studies that is tracking illnesses and/or death involving those who have been vaccinated?
It seems that the number of reported cases and deaths have increased since the distribution of the vaccine. I will feel more at ease if I knew more about these numbers.