State to expand vaccine access to anyone 50+ this month

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michiganders who are 50 years or older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday.

Starting on Monday, March 8, residents who are 50 years or older with a preexisting condition or disability will be eligible to get vaccinated. Those preexisting conditions include cancer, kidney and liver disease, COPD, heart conditions, diabetes, hypertension, neurological diseases like dementia, obesity and more.

Family caregivers, including those who care for children with special health care needs, will also be eligible starting Monday.

Two weeks later on March 22, anyone over 50 years old or older will be allowed to get a vaccine.

“We are pleased to expand eligibility for more people to get vaccinated as we continue to focus on our most vulnerable and those at highest risk of severe illness due to COVID-19,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said in a statement released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services after the governor’s announcement, which came during a press event in Dearborn regarding infrastructure.

Whitmer explained the change is due to the state getting more vaccines now that the Johnson & Johnson shot was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last week, and also pointed to a Tuesday announcement from President Joe Biden that the federal government will have secured enough doses to vaccinate every adult in the country by the end of May.

“The more people we can get the safe and effective vaccine, the faster we can return to a sense of normalcy,” she said in a statement released by MDHHS. “I urge all eligible Michiganders to get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines to protect you, your family and your community.”

Those seeking a shot should head to the websites of their local health department, hospital or pharmacies like Meijer and Rite Aid to find out how to register. If you need help, you can call 211 or the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 888.535.6136 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends. Public health officials note that appointments may still be limited, so you may be put on a waitlist.

The Kent County Health Department said it was informed of the change Monday.

“The KCHD is working to expand its process to ensure all eligible residents can be vaccinated. Vaccine supplies remain extremely limited, so we ask for patience as we work through the details,” a statement from the health department read.

It directed people to to register with a provider in their area.

As of Tuesday, Michigan has received about 2.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and about 2.3 million of those had been administered. MDHHS said Wednesday that more than 44% of Michigan residents age 65 and up and nearly 49% of people older than 75 have now gotten at least one shot.

Michigan’s vaccine rollout calendar still shows that the lowest-risk groups of people won’t be able to get their shots until late July or early August, but that could change as supply increases.

The state wants to get shots to 70% of its residents ages 16 and up. Surveys show that many people in Michigan are willing to get the vaccine, though the percentage also varies by region. Fewer than two-thirds of people in West Michigan, for example, say they will get vaccinated.

Public health officials remind everyone to continue follow coronavirus mitigation measures because not enough of the population has been vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

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