Though the state of Michigan announced a move last week to begin vaccinating people over 65 and some essential workers on Monday, Michigan Medicine unexpectedly paused their Phase 1B distribution plan Monday due to a lower than expected vaccine supply made available to the state. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that anyone who receives the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines must get both doses on time, rejecting ideas to stretch the supply by administering only one dose or by extending the second dose timeline. The pause by Michigan Medicine will ensure that those in Phase 1A who are scheduled for their second dose can receive it without any delays, Michigan Medicine director of public relations Mary Masson wrote in an email to The Michigan Daily Monday afternoon.

Michigan Medicine was prepared to complete its Phase 1A and roll out to Phase 1B on Monday,” Masson wrote. “But based on the quantity of vaccine doses scheduled to arrive, Michigan Medicine will only have enough to complete first-dose appointments already scheduled through Tuesday as well as administer second doses.”

Phase 1A of vaccine distribution was originally scheduled to be completed by Monday, with the goal of vaccinating all Michigan Medicine employees “serving in health care settings who have direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home, as well as residents of long-term care facilities.” Michigan Medicine has not yet announced whether Phase 1A was successfully completed Monday. 

18,971 first doses have been administered through the hospital system as of Sunday, according to an email sent to members of the Michigan Medicine community. 

In a Monday press release, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she had requested authorization from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, to purchase up to 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine directly from Pfizer for the state of Michigan. 

“We remain ready to accelerate distribution to get doses into arms,” Whitmer wrote in her letter to Azar. “… This direct purchase will fill a two-week lag in supply and ensure that we can continue to ramp up our vaccination efforts across Michigan.”

Whitmer — along with eight other governors — also sent a letter to President Donald Trump’s administration last week, asking them to distribute the millions of vaccine doses that are currently being held back. The Trump administration has followed a policy of holding back half the doses with the logic of guaranteeing the availability of second doses.

Health care institutions across the country are experiencing high demand among eligible recipients for the vaccine that cannot be met by the initial supply several states received. Diverging sharply from Trump, President-elect Joe Biden has announced that he plans to release most of the reserved second doses, hoping those in need of a first dose of the vaccine get it as soon as possible. Biden’s plan leaves several experts worried, as it relies on steady manufacturing of the vaccine which was authorized for emergency use based on the two dosage recomendation.

Masson wrote that Michigan Medicine supports the current recommended vaccine distribution plan of ensuring patients receive both doses. 

“The FDA and CDC still recommend this and we support that approach,” Masson wrote. “The only scenario in which a single dose might be considered is if there was a fixed supply of vaccine without potential for more. That is not the case at this time.”

Michigan Medicine announced its two-phase vaccination distribution plan in December 2020. Phase 1A includes health care workers with exposure to patients and infectious materials and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B of vaccine distribution includes people 65 and older as well as some essential workers in food service, transportation, education and utilities. 

Phase 1C includes those with underlying medical conditions that would put them at high risk for contracting COVID-19 along with other essential workers. Phase 2 will consist of large-scale vaccination efforts for those 16 and older.

The University of Michigan community is being encouraged to fill out the BlueQueue questionnaire to help the University gauge interest in getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The questionnaire also enables the University community to sign up to receive the vaccine.

Those residing in Washtenaw County falling into Phase 1A or Phase 1B are able to sign up for an appointment to receive the vaccine at a vaccination site through the Washtenaw County Health Department on their website.

Daily Staff Reporter Nadir Al-Saidi can be reached at alsaidin@umich.edu

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