Roughly 26% of the University of Michigan community has been fully vaccinated as of Mar. 5, according to data obtained by The Michigan Daily through a Freedom of Information Act Request. This figure does not include Michigan Medicine patients.
Since Michigan Medicine’s first COVID-19 vaccine was administered on Dec. 14, the University has utilized the Blue Queue questionnaire to categorize and prioritize U-M students and employees for vaccine distribution into four phases: Phase 1A, Phase 1B, Phase 1C and Phase 2. These phases reflect the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine prioritization guidelines.
Beginning on Dec. 14, Phase 1A initially included residents of long-term care facilities and employees who have direct or indirect contact with patients or infectious materials at work. To abide by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, Phase 1A was expanded on Jan. 4 to include all Michigan Medicine employees.
Phase 1B, which began on Jan. 11, initially included those 75 and older, as well as frontline and essential workers in food and environmental services, DPSS officers, residence hall advisors and child care workers. This phase was adapted to include those 65 and older to ensure that more patients and employees could be included in the vaccination timeline as soon as possible, Michigan Medicine spokesperson Mary Masson told The Daily in an interview Wednesday.
Phase 1C, which has not begun yet, includes those at high-risk for critical COVID-19 sickness due to underlying conditions and essential workers in transportation, food service, construction, finance, IT, energy, media, legal, public safety and logistics industries. Phase 2 includes the remainder of those over the age of 16.
Changes in MDHHS vaccine distribution criteria are made to ensure that vaccines are allocated to distribution sites where they will most efficiently reach populations in need. Most recently, MDHHS downsized the vaccine supply previously allocated to Michigan Medicine to more adequately serve populations across the state.
The Michigan Daily obtained the following statistics based on Blue Queue questionnaire responses through a public records request and directly from Masson.
In an email to The Daily, Masson said Michigan Medicine has estimated how large the population will be for each phase of the vaccination plan. These estimates include all University students and employees as well as Michigan Medicine patients. Phase 1A includes about 25,000 individuals, the Phase 1B population is made up of approximately 155,000 people and the Phase 1C population will likely be a total of roughly 270,000 people.
As of Feb. 9, 37,570 Blue Queue respondents meet the criteria for Phase 1A, 2,113 respondents meet the criteria for Phase 1B and 10,198 respondents meet the criteria for Phase 1C. The remaining 28,527 individuals fall under Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout plan.
As of Mar. 7, Michigan Medicine has fully vaccinated 33,174 individuals and has administered an additional 5,646 first doses.
There are roughly 130,000 U-M students and employees accounted for through the Blue Queue system, including Michigan Medicine employees. The Blue Queue does not take into account individuals who are outside of the U-M community, including Michigan Medicine patients and the elderly.
Of the estimated 130,000 U-M community members across all phases and campuses, 41% responded to the questionnaire and 59% did not. Ninety percent of those who did respond indicated that they do want to receive the vaccine when it is made available to them, 5.1% deferred the opportunity for a vaccination and 4.7% answered that they do not want the vaccine.
As of Feb. 9, 42,2992 respondents are affiliated with the Ann Arbor campus and 30,9633 with Michigan Medicine. 2,773 respondents are associated with U-M Dearborn and 1,998 are affiliated with U-M Flint. Some respondents to the questionnaire affiliate with more than one campus, which is why the sum of the number of respondents by campus is larger than the total number of individual responses.
Dana Habers, co-chair of the Michigan Medicine COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics task force said one challenge of the Blue Queue system is that it relies on U-M employees and students to remain up-to-date with their email. Habers explained their attempts to get in touch with employees who are not up to date on vaccine information.
“Our co-chairs … brought shoulder-to-shoulder tech support to show (employees not up to date on vaccine information) how to complete the Blue Queue questionnaire and answered questions as they walked through it,” Habers said. “Some of the managers in those areas were involved in even helping do some paper-based communications to get to those groups.”
Outside of the Blue Queue system, Michigan Medicine patients will receive an invitation to get vaccinated via email and will also be notified through their online patient health portals. Patients who do not have an online health portal will be contacted by the COVID-19 hotline team through a mailed letter or by phone. Appointments are available for established Michigan Medicine patients and those who have had an in-person or virtual appointment with Michigan Medicine in the last 24 months.
Haber said more people are invited to schedule a vaccine appointment than the amount of doses Michigan Medicine is allocated to ensure that all the available slots are filled.
“Most of the time we have … vaccines, and then we offer a greater number of appointments and a greater number of invitations to people to fill those appointment slots,” Habers said. “Some of that also comes from not knowing for sure who’s been vaccinated elsewhere at this point … especially with our patient population, people over 65 have had access to get them (vaccines) through the county.”
According to Habers, Michigan Medicine received 1,170 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, a fraction of their maximum 24,000 dose-administering capability. Masson told the Daily in an email that Michigan Medicine also received 200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, but is still planning on how to administer it safely and efficiently to the community.
“We have parallel processes for appointment scheduling,” Habers said. “One is portal based, which is really efficient. But, clearly not everyone is a portal user or has access to the internet to be able to log into their portal. Especially when they are waiting for an appointment and have to grab that appointment before it is gone.”
Habers also commented on the phone-based contact system that was put into place to reach individuals in Phase 1B who cannot access the online health portal, as research shows that many older adults do not use online patient portals.
“Maybe 50% of our patients actually have a portal account and then many more have it but don’t use it,” Habers said. “We have an outbound call center that was started up at the same time we moved into Phase 1B. (Individuals in this Phase 1B) get notification of appointment availability before we publish it so that the outbound calls can happen to those who don’t use the portal.”
Michigan Medicine is currently in Phase 1B of their vaccination plan. However, the health system can be in more than one phase at a time. Sandro Cinti, Michigan Medicine professor and a leader in the vaccine distribution, elaborated on the timeline of the rollout.
“We are going into a phase now where we are doing almost as many second doses as first does every week,” Cinti said. “So that adds to the complexity of all this.”
According to Masson, approximately 70% of Michigan Medicine employees have been vaccinated. This demographic includes Nursing senior Jillian Yassay, who was vaccinated as part of Phase 1A because she works in the pediatric oncology unit.
While she is not at the highest risk for infection, Yassay said she was vaccinated following the Blue Queue tiering protocol. All children she sees are categorized as “clean” in that they have been tested or are completely asymptomatic before coming in to receive treatment.
“There are definitely other people way more at risk than I am and they haven’t received it — even, for example, my cancer patients,” Yassay said. “I don’t think the questionnaire is very reliable, quite honestly.”
Yassay said she thinks the University did the best they could given the information provided by the Blue Queue, she questioned if this information is valid or reliable.
“I also understand that there has to be some sort of methodology behind who gets it,” Yassay said. “Nobody is going to be happy with the result because there is always going to be people who want the vaccine and aren’t going to be able to get it due to the Blue Queue algorithm.”
During the last weekly COVID-19 briefing on Feb. 26, Rob Ernst, associate vice president for student life and chair of the campus health response committee, said the University is attempting to build a repository of student vaccination status to better plan for future semesters.
“Vaccination is what gives us that optimism that there’s a way out of the pandemic,” Ernst said. “One of the things that we are working on right now are ways to just know what everybody’s vaccination status is — that’s where we are right now, is just trying to come up with a registry of everybody.”
Alex Cotignola contributed to the data collection for this article.
Daily Staff Reporter Nadir Al-Saidi can be reached at email@example.com.
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.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.