Detroit vaccination rates lag behind rest of state

City says work is being done to address disparity
Posted at 6:59 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 18:59:19-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says residents of the state’s largest city, with a majority-minority population, got left out as vaccine rollout started. The mayor also says changes are coming to address the disparity. Is it enough?

7 Action News was the first to take a look at the disparity a few weeks ago. We reported that Detroiters, in the city hardest hit in Michigan, were getting vaccinated at a fraction of the rate of the rest of the state. The data shows the trend continues.

“Today about 8% of the residents of Michigan have been vaccinated, but only 3% of Detroiters,” said Mayor Mike Duggan, City of Detroit, during a press conference Thursday.

The inequality frustrates Rufus Bartell, President of the Independent Business Association, owner of numerous Detroit businesses such as Simply Casual Clothing store and Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles.

“The smartest thing to do is to go after the more vulnerable communities that have suffered at a greater clip. That shouldn’t be debatable,” said Bartell.

So what is behind it?

Some have asked is it mistrust?

A Kaiser Family Foundation study published in December found that about 27 percent of the public said they probably or definitely would not get a vaccine. Among black adults, the number was 35%.

Mayor Duggan says that’s not the issue impacting vaccination rates in Detroit currently. He has long lists of people who want the vaccine.

“It isn’t because Detroiters don’t want to. We’ve got 10,000 appointments booked up for the next month. It is because Detroiters were not nearly as able to access the electronic medical records as the rest of the state. The governor has understood this and she has been on top of this the last couple of weeks, as has Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, but unfortunately the last two weeks the feds cut the state’s supply unfortunately in half.”

The mayor says as vaccines rolled out Detroit hospitals got most of the city’s supply and served people mostly out of the city.

At this point in time, the city has received 18,450 vaccines and administered 15,000 doses to people. He says he lobbied for more and now the city will be going from about 5,000 vaccines a week to about 15,000 next week.

He says as a result the city is opening up more appointments and is experiencing an influx of calls. It has 80 operators answering phones.

The mayor said that Detroit area hospitals agreed that the best way to reach the most Detroit residents was to increase vaccine supply to the City Health Department.

“I’ve got to give DMC and Henry Ford leadership credit. They backed me on this,” said Mayor Duggan.

Bartell says he agrees that the first step to addressing the problem is increasing the number of vaccines available to the city.

“No you’ve got to break down the barriers,” said Bartell.

He is calling for more vaccination locations, improving transportation to those locations, and education about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

Bartell says vaccinations are key for Detroit’s economy and his businesses to thrive.

He has seen the surveys about mistrust of vaccines being higher amongst minorities. He says it is understandable when you consider the history of the Tuskegee Experiment.

The study was done by the government between 1932 and 1972. African American men were promised free health care and then, without their knowledge, studied to find out what happens when syphilis treatment is withheld.

“People are starting to make a distinction between things like the Tuskegee Experiment and this pandemic. This pandemic is a global situation that affects the whole human family. That is what we have to lean on when we talk to the African American community about the importance of fighting this disease,” said Bartell.

He says when he encounters people who are hesitant about whether they will get the vaccine, he focuses on facts. He says people listen.

“I don’t know 400,000 people that died from getting the vaccine, but we certainly know 400,000 people who got COVID,” said Bartell.

Mayor Duggan says the city has also accepted bids for a program aimed at helping people get transportation to vaccine sites. The mayor says the city will continue to work on education and outreach to encourage vaccination.

Bartell says people should know that Detroit residents will respond to outreach, education, and facts. The city lost more than 1,700 people to COVID-19.

“While Detroit was one of the hardest hit, Detroit responded the best in terms of percentage of people who work masks and bringing those numbers down at an alarming rate and right now enjoy one of the lowest rates of anybody not only in southeast Michigan but in the country,” said Bartell.

Detroit is currently working to vaccinate people on-location in senior homes and at homeless shelters. It is also offering vaccines to the public in a parking garage at the TCF Center.

Here are the groups that are currently eligible to get a vaccine in Detroit:

  • Any resident of the City of Detroit who is age 65 or older (Updated)
  • That means anyone born in 1955 or earlier
  • K-12 teachers and support staff and daycare workers
  • U.S. Post Office Employees who live or work in Detroit
  • Employees of the City of Detroit or city-related agencies who are working from their regular job site (Employees working from home are not eligible at this time)
  • State and Federal Law enforcement working in Detroit
  • Members of the Clergy interacting with members of their congregation
  • Funeral Home/mortuary employees working in Detroit
  • (NEW) Paid and unpaid persons in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials working in Detroit

Vaccinations will be administered by appointment only. You can schedule an appointment by calling 313-230-0505.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.