Phase 1B vaccinations to begin after initial pause due to low supply

Monday, January 18, 2021 - 7:16pm

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Madeline Hinkley/Daily

After receiving a shipment of 9,750 COVID-19 vaccines Monday, Michigan Medicine is ready to resume vaccinating individuals who fall under Phase 1A of their distribution plan and begin vaccinating some of those who fall within Phase 1B. Phase 1B was paused on Jan. 11 after the hospital received a low vaccine supply.

Phase 1A includes residents of long-term care facilities and employees that have direct or indirect contact with patients or infectious materials. Phase 1B is scheduled to include those 65 years old and older as well as frontline and essential workers.

According to Michigan Medicine spokeswoman Mary Masson, the doses received Monday will be used to give first and second doses to patients in Phases 1A and 1B. The completion date of Phase 1A is still unknown and depends on vaccine supply.

“We have resumed our first-dose appointments in Phase 1A and extended invitations to patients who are 65 and older and fall into Phase 1B,” Masson wrote in an email to The Daily. “The first wave of patients 65 and older who fall in Phase 1B received invites over the weekend and have begun receiving vaccines today. With the current supply, we were able to invite about 3,000 patients.”

Phase 1A began in mid-December and was scheduled to have been completed by Jan. 11 or sooner, roughly one month after the initial batch of vaccines arrived. Michigan Medicine is ready to administer up to 12,000 vaccines per week and has the capability to expand to 24,000 per week as new locations prepare for vaccine arrival. 

To meet the scheduling demand, the University of Michigan is increasing the number of vaccination appointments offered to patients and is in the process of adding new vaccination sites, according to Masson. As the number of people eligible for the vaccine increases, a large number of outpatient facilities will become vaccination sites, in addition to the Michigan Stadium and the University Hospital.

In an interview with The Daily, Medical School professor Sandro Cinti said progressing into Phase 1B is difficult due to the large number of individuals it encompasses. During this time, there will also be individuals from Phase 1A returning to receive their second doses. 

“Some of the challenges are very clearly having to schedule people into a slot. Making sure there is enough distancing and safety at each site,” Cinti said. “We are going into a phase now where we are doing almost as many second doses as first doses every week. So that adds to the complexity of all this.”

At the weekly COVID-19 briefing on Friday, Cinti said that the hospital has been preparing for months to distribute vaccines and is following state orders.

“We started preparing in the beginning of November for this,” Cinti said. “We have not had problems getting rid of vaccines. We have been vaccinating as the state has asked us.”

Cinti also explained at Friday’s briefing that the vaccine prioritization stages are recommended by the University’s advisory committee on immunization practices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“We’re working within the parameters that have been established by the CDC and the state,” Cinti said. “We do have the priority to protect our populations at highest risk, but another priority is really to move vaccines quickly.”

Initially, the Tier 1 subgroup of Phase 1A included those in the intensive care and emergency departments, as well as inpatient and short-stay unit staff and those who work in areas with patients known or suspected of having COVID-19. On Jan. 6, the University community was informed that Phase 1A eligibility had been expanded to include not just those in the health system, but also researchers, educators and shared services employees. At the briefing Friday, Cinti said the purpose of the statewide expansion was to encourage medical providers to use at least 90% of the doses provided per week. 

But in an email to The Daily, Medical School student Daniel Lyons questioned the prioritization of Michigan Medicine employees, such as researchers, over frontline workers. Michigan Medicine employees have raised concerns about vaccine prioritization in the past, arguing that some who have little in-person work are first in line for vaccines.

“Researchers with absolutely no patient contact and no in person requirements for their research were getting vaccines. And yet they now have no supplies for continuing Phase 1B,” Lyons wrote. “And local schools are beginning in person classes soon while Washtenaw County will not have enough vaccines for all teachers for some time.”

Lyons asked why vaccines were not available to teachers or employees of grocery stores at the same time they were offered to healthcare workers. 

“Washtenaw County only has enough vaccines to give to teachers 50 and over and with a new shipment to the University of Michigan this week … Why doesn’t Umich [sic] open it up to teachers or grocery workers as well who are on the frontlines much more than many researchers who are doing work at home?” Lyons wrote.

Cinti told The Daily the hospital will continue to vaccinate individuals as vaccines become available while following the state-recommended prioritization.

“Given the tiering that was done by the state, it was important that we gave the vaccine out equitably,” Cinti said. “That will be the same going forward, but now we are dealing with a more diffuse population.” 

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


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