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Gov. Whitmer talks COVID-19 vaccine in AARP Michigan telephone town hall

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told an AARP Michigan telephone town hall audience of 16,000 on Jan. 14 that every Michigander who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will get one – but it’s going to take some time.

The Governor said Michigan was promised 300,000 doses of vaccine a week but is only receiving about 60,000. The weekly vaccination numbers are improving, said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive.

“Last week we vaccinated six times as many people as in the first week – so we are making progress,” she said.

A New York Times report this week indicated 2.3% of Michigan residents have received the vaccine. The national average is 2.8%.

Whitmer has asked the federal government for permission to buy 100,000 doses directly from Pfizer. Also, the state recently agreed to partner with Meijer to distribute the vaccine to people 65 and up, starting with Wayne County.

“Please be patient with us, we are doing everything we can to get vaccines to everyone,” Whitmer said. “It’s going to take a long time to get to everyone.”

Nursing home residents and health care workers, tabbed priority 1A, received the early doses. The state is now working on getting everyone age 65 and above inoculated.

The state is working closely with local health departments to dispense vaccine.

“We are encouraging people to get the vaccine in counties where they reside,” Whitmer said, adding she realizes some will get inoculated in other locations. County health departments are setting up appointments.

“I hear your frustration about not being able to get an appointment,” Dr. Khaldun said, adding that Michiganders can call 211 for help if they don’t know how to proceed.

The Governor and Dr. Khaldun were asked what the state is doing to get the word out about the vaccine to African American communities. One woman on the call from Benton Harbor said she received her first shot earlier this week and did not see another person of color at the location.

Whitmer said the state is “doing a lot of outreach to the African American community, but we recognize there is still work to do. We know there are legitimate reasons to be hesitant.”

She said it’s especially important to reach out to minority communities because reports have indicated a high incidence of COVID cases and deaths among those populations.

Whitmer said there is reluctance among some people partly due to the fact the vaccines were developed more rapidly than usual, among other reasons.

“The vaccines are highly effective and safe,” the Governor said.

One participant on the call said she was told CVS and Walgreen pharmacies would be doing vaccinations. But Whitmer noted those drug store chains are inoculating nursing home residents only, and are not handling visitors to their stores at this time.

A call participant from the Mexican Consulate in Detroit asked what identification will be accepted at vaccination sites. Dr. Khaldun replied: “Any ID that people provide will be accepted.”

During the call, an unscientific survey of those on the line showed 85% said they intend to get the vaccination, 2% said they don’t intend to get it and 13% said they have not decided.

For more information about the vaccine, how to reach your local health department to set up an appointment, and other assistance go to:

Whitmer likened the COVID vaccination situation to a locomotive: It’s slow to start but after it gets rolling, it quickly gains momentum.

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