As vaccines are becoming more and more accessible, Michigan Medicine has been a key distributor responsible for vaccinating hospital staff and patients as well as some students and faculty in Ann Arbor. Each week, the number of vaccines available nationally varies, which influences the supply chain and ultimately how many doses local health systems have access to.
Michigan Medicine has the capacity to vaccinate up to 24,000 individuals per week. However, the amount of vaccinations actually distributed each week depends on the amount of doses allocated to Michigan Medicine by the state, according to Mary Masson, Michigan Medicine director of public relations.
“Michigan Medicine does not order a specific amount of vaccine doses from the state of Michigan, the state determines how much to distribute to us,” Masson wrote in an email. “If our supply of vaccines increases, we could do 12,000 doses per week and ramp up to 20,000. During this week, the week of March 15, we received enough vaccines to open 4,400 first-dose appointments.”
The University of Michigan has been vaccinating through the Michigan Medicine system since vaccines were first made available in the state in December 2020. Marisa Eisenberg, University associate professor of epidemiology complex systems and math, explained the federal and state tiers of the vaccine distribution pipeline.
“The way that (the vaccine pipeline) works is that there’s a federal allocation and the Michigan Department of Health and Human services puts in orders each week to the federal system,” Eisenberg said. “There’s been a shift in the way that the state has been distributing vaccines, so it was initially more heavily relying on hospital systems, and then to try to make more equitable vaccine distribution, they shifted towards a more local health department based model and using pharmacies.”
Eisenberg said the way vaccines are chosen to be distributed to regions is based on the social vulnerability index, which is a percentile used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the vulnerability of communities to stresses that negatively impact health. As of 2016, Washtenaw county had an SVI score of 0.2557, which indicates low to moderate vulnerability. However, areas of the county with more Black and Latinx residents have lower SVI scores compared to other areas, so the county health department set up pop-up vaccination clinics throughout the last two weeks specifically focusing on these communities.
According to Masson, Michigan Medicine spent a few weeks allocating their doses to patients who had already received their first doses, since the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses spaced 3 or 4 weeks apart for maximum immunity. This is what caused previous pauses in first-dose appointments, though recently Michigan Medicine has been receiving enough weekly doses to resume first-dose appointments.
“We have continued to offer vaccine clinics weekly, although we had some weeks where we couldn’t offer new first-dose appointments because we didn’t have the vaccine supply,” Masson wrote. “We continue to work with other health care systems, our local health departments, and the state on distribution.”
Eisenberg works on the state’s COVID-19 response and focuses on infectious disease modeling. She echoed Masson and said the decreased availability of first-dose appointments at Michigan Medicine is due to delays in vaccine supply.
“The reason for Michigan Medicine’s pause is that they just haven’t been getting much in the way of supply,” Eisenberg said. “And so for a while, I know that they were really mostly just focusing on finishing out second doses from the people who they had already gotten first doses for, and so that, I think, reasonably they shifted back towards doing more first doses again. I think they finished up that round of second doses and then, now they’re starting to get rolling on first doses again.”
Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, the Washtenaw County Health Department public information officer, discussed the process of receiving and requesting vaccines for the county as a whole.
“We only provide a request number for the second doses we need each week,” Ringler-Cerniglia said. “Then, we take everything that is available to us, so (there is) zero decision making. Our doses come through the state health department (MDHHS). The state allocates vaccine supplies to local health departments and health systems/hospitals.”
LSA senior Sabrina Corsetti is involved in COVID-19 modeling research. She believes that vaccine opportunities as well as students having a positive mindset going into the Fall 2021 semester is critical for having a return to normalcy in the fall.
“I know that the University was initially concerned that they might not be able to vaccinate students until really the fall,” Corsetti said. “But since supply has been ramping up, I think there is a lot more optimism about vaccinating students sooner.”
Once supply of vaccines is stabilized, Corsetti said she thinks the University should focus on ensuring that vaccine distribution for students is a safe and easy process.
“So obviously, a lot of it is supply dependent, making sure that you know the most vulnerable populations are vaccinated … prior to just the general student population,” Corsetti said. “I think a lot of it comes down to making sure that we minimize vaccine hesitancy in the student population. I think that once the supply is taken care of, just making sure that students feel comfortable and safe going and getting it and also publicizing where they can go to get the vaccine and what methods they can follow to go get it.”
Daily Staff Reporter Kaitlyn Luckoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.