DETROIT — With panelists giving the green light on the use of the Pfizer vaccine, Wayne County is anticipating delivery of the first round of COVID-19 vaccines.
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said that it’s currently unknown how many vaccines the county will be given:
“Wayne County is working closely with the state of Michigan and our local health providers on a comprehensive plan to distribute the vaccine
in a safe and expeditious manner,” he said. “At this time, we do not know how many doses the county will receive in the first shipment from the state. I will update county residents as more information from the state and the federal government is available. Right now, it is important for everyone to stay the course: Continue to wear your mask and practice social distancing; avoid large crowds, especially over the holiday season, and stay home and consult your health care professional if you are feeling sick or have symptoms. Once the vaccines arrive, front-line medical workers and Emergency Management Services will be prioritized. As more vaccines come online, critical workers, residents most at risk and the elderly will be next in line. It still will be several months before there are enough vaccine doses to provide access to everyone in Wayne County. Be patient. Stay safe. We will get through this together.”
Wayne County Chief Medical Strategist Dr. Mouhanad Hammami said that the first vaccines are expected to be given to health care workers.
“Wayne County will follow the state of Michigan’s guidelines for distributing the first doses of the vaccine,” he said. “The first doses will go to those front-line healthcare providers and skilled nursing facilities staff and residents, and public safety workers who face the risk of this pandemic every day. In the coming weeks and next few months as more vaccines will be available, the Wayne County Public Health Department will update and inform residents on where and how to get vaccinated.”
During Thursday’s COVID press conference, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said that Michigan is expected to receive approximately 84,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine once approved by the FDA.
A panel of experts also formally recommended emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine to the FDA. Once the FDA approves the vaccine, it will then be up to the CDC to approve. Once both agencies approve it, health care workers and nursing home residents are on first priority and can begin receiving the first doses as early as next week.
The panel was composed of independent scientific experts, infectious disease doctors and statisticians. They voted 17 to four, with one member abstaining.
An emergency use authorization allows practitioners to administer a vaccine despite it not gaining full FDA approval.
Khaldun said that there are 48 hospitals and 12 local health departments that have the freezer capabilities to be able to receive and administer the Pfizer vaccine.
Additionally, Khaldun said that once the Moderna vaccine is approved, expected later this month, Michigan will receive an estimated 173,000 doses in its first shipment.
“As we get more vaccines, we will be able to offer the vaccine to more and more people,” she said. “Including other essential workers, people with underlying medical conditions and people over the age of 65. We hope by spring we will be able to offer the vaccine to the general public.”
“Not a live virus or a live vaccine”
We are expecting the distribution any day – Beaumont Dearborn president David Claeys
With Dearborn consistently having some of the highest numbers of positive cases in the county, Council President Susan Dabaja held a Facebook Live event with experts from Beaumont Health.
Beaumont ACO CEO and Chairman Dr. Belal Abdallah said that Beaumont is expected to receive the Pfizer vaccines as early as Monday.
“Beaumont Hospital is one of the hospitals that will be receiving the vaccines,” he said. “We have been preparing for months for this and have the freezers and everything in place and ready.”
Beaumont Dearborn’s president, David Claeys, said that Beaumont will be getting some of the first distributions of the vaccine.
“We are expecting the distribution any day,” he said. “Initially we are expecting to get about 1,000 doses to Beaumont that will continue to ramp up. Between now and Thursday we expect those to start to be delivered. Our big date is the 17th, when the Moderna vaccine will go before the FDA. Dearborn has three or four of the freezers needed to store the Pfizer vaccines.”
Abdallah said he recommends the vaccine.
“This is an mRNA technology,” he said. “It’s not a live virus or a live vaccine. This is just genetic material. A patient is given an injection of this mRNA with a special coding. It goes into the muscle cell, which then builds a spike protein which allows the COVID-19 virus to enter your body. When the spike protein leaves the muscle cell, your body recognizes that there is a foreign entity in the body and builds an immunity towards it. The second injection has the same mRNA, but allows the body to fight more efficiently and may prevent the virus completely. A lot of the side effects that are reported are immune responses similar to what happens with flu shots.”
Beaumont Dearborn Chief of Staff Dr. David Peters said if you’ve had COVID-19 already, you won’t be prioritized for the vaccine.
“If you’ve had COVID-19, it will still be helpful,” he said. “But when we are prioritizing, because we believe people who have already had COVID-19 have adequate antibodies that they will likely not be given the vaccine in the first round. That does not mean that we wouldn’t recommend they get it down the line as a booster. We recommend the vaccine to no one under the age of 16 and testing is ongoing with children and pregnant women.”
With the hospital representatives also stating that mask wearing is the best protection against the virus, the city’s police and fire departments have begun leaving bags of masks on doorsteps in the areas of the community with the highest risk and case count.
The delivery includes 10 masks per household placed in two bags held together with rubber bands.
The distribution began in east Dearborn and the Southend of Dearborn, with distribution scheduled to begin for west Dearborn next week.
“I assure residents that these masks are legitimate and safe to use,” said Mayor Jack O’Reilly. “Residents with questions can call my office at 313-943-2300. They can also call the Police Department 24 hours a day at 313-943-2241.”