DEARBORN – U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) hosted a virtual town hall this week with health experts from Beaumont and Washtenaw County to discuss COVID-19.
“I can’t wait to get back to the things we used to work on instead of COVID 24 hours a day, but it matters,” Dingell said. “Public health really matters. First and foremost, we are not leaving Washington until we have a COVID relief package. We are still in the midst of negotiations, but I’m going to tell you too many people are hurting, too many businesses are suffering for us to let partisan politics stand in the way of relief. I think Mitch McConnell finally gets it and understands that we cannot leave here without a stimulus package.”
Dingell said that while watching the first vaccines go out made her emotional, she’s not rushing to get one.
“I watched the first shipment go out and I just burst into tears because it is hope,” she said. “We need to take it seriously. This is one public official that won’t race to the front of the line to get the shot, but I’m not stupid, so I know I have to get vaccinated. I am willing to let everyone get it before I do as I feel that’s my American duty.”
Beaumont Health Senior Vice President and Infection Prevention Lead Dr. Nick Gilpin said that he has already gotten the vaccine.
“Currently we have about 600-700 COVID cases in our system among eight hospitals,” he said. “Our ICU capacities are challenged and our staff is exhausted. We need to protect our staff and keep our staff healthy so they can keep caring for the community. There’s hope, we have a vaccine that’s just been made available to us. This signals what I hope to be a turning point to getting us back to a pre-COVID normal.”
Gilpin said that a vaccine is essential.
“I’ve taken the vaccine, I was fortunate to have been selected to be one of the first recipients,” he said. “I believe I was selected because I have a dual role and I see COVID patients every day. I also am a leader and as a leader, my job and my role is to be an ambassador for this vaccine. I want people to trust that this vaccine is safe and that this vaccine works.”
Gilpin also explained that the Pfizer vaccine was developed over a three month trial period with approximately 40,000 participants.
“In that trial, they were able to conclude that the vaccine is 95 percent efficacious,” he said. “To put it in perspective, the flu vaccine is between 40 and 60 percent effective, the shingles vaccine is 90 percent effective. This vaccine is 95 percent effective.”
While the vaccine has started being distributed nationwide, Gilpin said there are still many questions.
“Can someone with the vaccine still transmit the disease?” he said. “We also don’t know if this will be required annually or how long the immunity lasts. There are a lot of questions that we are still working through.”
With some hospitals not having the vaccine yet, the state of Michigan has a dashboard available on its website to answer questions, provide data of where the vaccines are, how many people are vaccinated and more.
Dingell said it’s important to remember that we aren’t out of the woods just yet.
“Right now it’s really important that we answer the questions and make people comfortable,” she said. “The most important things we can do is wear a mask and social distancing and wash your hands. We have a few more difficult months ahead.”
More information on the vaccines can be found at www.michigan.gov/covidvaccine.