Alec Cohen/Daily. Buy this photo.

All Michigan adults will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations beginning April 5, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday. 

Whitmer also announced Friday the opening of an eight-week mass vaccination site at Ford Field in Detroit on March 24. The mass vaccination site was selected by the Biden administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the federal government’s vaccination pilot program. The site will have the capacity to administer 6,000 doses per day to what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined to be a hard-hit and vulnerable population.

The announcement comes after Whitmer previously reported that all adults 50 years old and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning on March 22. Under the new guidelines announced Friday, adults ages 16 to 49 with underlying medical conditions will now also be eligible for the vaccine on the same date.

“I want to thank President Biden and FEMA for the opportunity to build one of the nation’s first community vaccination sites to service the entire Southeast Michigan region,” Whitmer said in a press release Friday. “Over one million Michiganders of all races have already been safely vaccinated, and this site will help us to reach our goal of equitably vaccinating 70 percent of Michiganders who are 16 years or older more quickly.”

As of March 5, roughly 26% of University of Michigan students and employees have been vaccinated. As of March 11, Michigan Medicine has delivered nearly 74,000 total first- and second-dose vaccinations. Currently, Michigan Medicine is in Phases 1A and 1B of vaccine prioritization, which include all Michigan Medicine employees, frontline and essential workers and adults 65 years old and older. 

During a pandemic that disproportionately affects minority communities — particularly Black communities — and individuals with lower social vulnerability indexes, the Detroit vaccination site aims to serve those who are most vulnerable to infection, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist said. The vaccination site was chosen in accordance with the CDC’s prioritization recommendations and aims to serve all southeastern Michigan communities. 

“After a year of tremendous challenges and heartache, the new vaccine site at Ford Field will be a beacon of hope in a community that was hit hard by the devastating impacts of this deadly virus,” Gilchrist said in the press release. “When we saw this virus targeting Black and Brown communities, Michigan got to work setting up one of the nation’s first task forces to help reduce the staggering, disproportionate rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths in communities of color.”

During its first three weeks, the site will administer the Pfizer vaccine to individuals who qualify according to the social vulnerability index, guaranteeing them a second dose in the fourth, fifth and sixth weeks of operation. The social vulnerability index is a tool developed by the CDC to analyze how social factors impact a community’s health risk. 

In 2016, Wayne County’s social vulnerability index score was roughly 0.87, indicating a high level of vulnerability. Officials have not yet announced the brand of the vaccine that will be administered during the last two weeks of the site’s operation. 

Vaccines will be administered free of charge and health insurance will not be required at the Ford Field site. While the vaccination site is not accepting appointment reservations at this time, instructions will be released in the next few days. Appointment eligibility will be determined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services vaccine prioritization guidelines — all individuals currently eligible will be able to schedule an appointment. 

The vaccination site will be operated by state and county officials in collaboration with FEMA. Kevin M. Sligh, acting regional administrator for FEMA Region 5 which includes most of the Midwest, said in the Friday press release the new distribution site is the next step toward ending the pandemic.

“FEMA is committed to the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” Sligh said. “In coordination with our federal, state and local partners, we are establishing the Ford Field site to expand the rate of vaccinations in an efficient, effective and equitable manner, with an explicit focus on making sure that local communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection are not left behind.” 

Daily Staff Reporter Lillian Gooding and Daily News Editor Hannah Mackay can be reached at goodingl@umich.edu and mackayh@umich.edu.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.


To get the best stories from The Michigan Daily delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter here and our weekly newsletter here.