Health departments in Michigan have begun turning down vaccine allocations from the state because they’re unable to find enough people willing to get the shots.
Normally, Dr. Jennifer Morse’s three local health districts get weekly vaccine shipments from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
But Morse, the medical director for District Health Department No. 10, the Central Michigan District Health Department and the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, which collectively cover a swath of 19 counties in the middle of the state, said Tuesday they’ve had to forego their allotments recently.
“We just don’t have the demand like we used to,” Morse said.
Each shot her staff administers takes a lot more effort now than early in the vaccine campaign when people eager to get the jabs flooded into mass clinics, she said.
Now, they have to hunt for willing recipients and make themselves available outside of regular business hours.
"The day of the mass vaccination clinic is dying,” Morse said. “Most people can’t schedule an appointment for between 9 and 5.”
And if enough health departments in Michigan find themselves in similar situations, the state could lose vaccine allocations from the federal government, which would assign them instead to states with higher demand.
Ingham County is one location that has seen demand for COVID vaccines steeply decline in recent weeks.
Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail describes the dropoff in the number of vaccination appointments as “dramatic.”
“At one point in time we were up to 10, 11, 12,000 scheduled appointments in a week. This week, we are anticipating 5,851.”
Still, the county is ordering more vaccine. Pfizer’s vaccine may soon be approved for children as young as 12, and that would likely lead to an uptick in demand.
Vail says the county is likely to not ask for more vaccine in the coming weeks.
“At this point in time, we are going to have enough vaccine on hand that, whether the state sends us more, or there’s something goes wrong with the manufacturing where they had to throw out millions of doses, those sorts of things, that we won’t be impacted like that.”
Even in counties with some of the state’s highest vaccination rates, officials are running into difficulty as they try to reach the 70% threshold Gov. Whitmer’s administration has set for approaching herd immunity.
Nationally, some experts are starting to predict the country may never reach that target.
But Dr. Jennifer Morse said she’s going to keep working at it. “We just keep looking for new ways, new innovations to reach people and convince people.”
“If you had a good experience getting the vaccine, tell your friends and family about it. This is one area where we have the power to change the pandemic’s course,” she said.