Counties frustrated by lack of vaccines as more people are made 'eligible'

People over 65 and essential workers are eligible starting Monday
Posted at 5:27 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 17:58:25-05

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ)  — When Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday that it is the state’s goal to have in-person learning offered at all schools by March first she said it would help that school staff as of this coming Monday are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

County, health, and school leaders say there is a problem. They say there simply is not enough vaccine available.

Counties tell me they have staff ready to deliver tens of thousands of vaccines a week - but in Macomb County for example they are only getting one thousand a week.

“There is no vaccines in these. There is plenty of space here in Macomb County if and when they come our way,” said Mark Hackel, Macomb County Executive in a video showing empty freezers.

Hackel says when the state expanded who was eligible for the vaccine to people over 65 and essential employees such as school workers, the phone calls poured in. In less than an hour, all appointments to receive vaccines were filled.

He says callers turned away are frustrated and so is he. He says he has staff ready to administer tens of thousands of vaccines a week, but in Macomb County, they are only getting about one thousand a week.

“The governor over promised something that health departments around the state cannot deliver,” said Hackel.

“MDHHS receives about 60k doses a week. We could use half of that,” said Dr. Russell Faust, Oakland County Medical Director.

Dr. Faust said Oakland County with current infrastructure could deliver 30,000 doses a week, and could quickly expand that. However, it is only receiving about 2,000 doses a week.

He says he understands the dilemma schools face with maintaining staffing and the vaccine could help minimize the need for quarantines. He also says in general in the county the data shows that schools that have been open for in-person learning have done an excellent job of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“If I look at the positivity rate and transmission rate and compare that to what happens in our schools, frankly the schools are one of the safest places you can be,” said Dr. Faust.

“I welcome any call for return to school,” said Dr. Richard Machesky, the Superintendent of Troy Schools.

He says people need to understand the district offered in-person learning until community rates increased, leading to staffing issues.

“It was our ability to staff buildings. We had a number of staff and students quarantining to the point we could not find enough subs to cover classrooms,” said Dr. Machesky.

He says vaccinating staff would hopefully ease that issue and ease concerns.

“There are a number of our staff that are older, have preexisting conditions, young staff that are pregnant,” said Dr. Machseky.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said she believes by March a good number of school workers will be able to get the vaccine but she admitted the state right now needs more. She called on the Federal Government to send shipments she says are being held back.

“There still is not a national strategy. We are building this as states. We have a list of providers who want to help. We need more vaccines in Michigan so we can deploy them,” said Governor Whitmer.

WXYZ reached out to the White House for comment on the allegation that the Trump administration is holding back millions of doses but did not receive comment.

The state says schools that start to offer in-person learning are encouraged to continue to also have virtual options.