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Detroit needs consistency from federal government to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to residents

a woman in scrubs puts on gloves in front of a car
Beenish Ahmed
Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says that there are over 12,000 appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations scheduled at the TCF Center in Detroit in the coming weeks. The city wants to do even more, but doesn't know if it can count on a consistent number of doses.

"Everybody is having a tough week. In Detroit, we expected to get 9 to 10 thousand this week. We got 6000. We can work with 6000, but it is not what we had hoped to try to keep expanding eligibility," Duggan said in a press conference Tuesday.

City health officials say appointments scheduled for the next few days will not be affected. People with those appointments were supposed to receive the Pfizer vaccine but will now receive the Moderna vaccine. Officials say this simply means the date of the second dose will get pushed back one week, and that will be done in-person at the TCF Center on the date of the first dose.

Duggan says the city's goal is 10,000 to 15,000 vaccinations a week and up to 20,000 to 25,000 in the further future, along with increased eligibility, but predictability and accurate information from the federal government is necessary to plan for those changes.

"The day that the Biden administration tells us we can count 10 thousand a week, we’re going to bring the age down to 65. It could even be before the end of the week, I don’t know. We are going to do this as fast as we can, but we’re also not going to raise expectations we can’t meet." He added that Detroit is managing fairly well, saying, "From our standpoint, we're in good shape in the city. We're ready to go, just get us the vaccines."

Of the 12,000 scheduled appointments at the TCF Center, approximately 8000 are Detroiters ages 70 and older, "good neighbors" as well as ages 65 and older who drive them to their appointments, 3300 are teachers and childcare workers, 700 are employees of the city of Detroit who can't work from home, and 400 are postal workers. The city is also doing vaccinations at homeless shelters, senior centers, and police and fire departments.

Only one new category of eligibility has been added to those already eligible to receive the vaccine at TCF: federal and state law enforcement living in Detroit. Duggan says this will likely only be a small number of people, but is still important to note.

The mayor also encouraged teachers who were headed back to in-person learning on March 1 to make their vaccination appointments as soon as possible in order to prepare for the return to school buildings with students by calling directly for an appointment.

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