Michigan Vaccine Shortage Causes Delays in Wayne, Washtenaw Counties

County health departments and Detroit’s vaccination site delayed appointments after switching from vaccines from Pfizer to Moderna.

Michigan’s shortfall of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is having a cascading effect on local providers.

Health departments in Washtenaw and Wayne Counties did not receive the number of vaccines they expected this week and are postponing appointments as they await new doses. But those will come from Moderna, not Pfizer. That vaccine is handled differently and county health officials say they were not set up to administer the incoming shots, leading to delays.

“We were notified late Friday evening that we are being switched to Moderna, but we were told we were not getting any more Pfizer for first vaccinations for those we had already scheduled, based on our promised supply of Pfizer,” said Wayne County spokesperson Bill Nowling. 

The Wayne County Public Health Division postponed appointments made for January 19 and 20, affecting about 1,400 people. The Washtenaw County Health Department canceled a full-day of its vaccination clinic and one partial clinic.

“This is incredibly difficult for everyone involved,” said Washtenaw County Health Department health officer Jimena Loveluck in a statement. “We are working as hard as we possibly can to vaccinate eligible individuals as quickly as possible.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the federal government has not been transparent about availability, saying the Trump administration had given the false impression it was holding vaccines back from the state.

“They flat out were being dishonest with us,” Whitmer said during a Tuesday press conference. “I have asked that Michigan have the permission of the federal government, because that’s necessary so that we can buy directly from Pfizer.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the state received 258,100 doses of vaccine from the federal government this week. That’s about 60% less than what was requested by local vaccine providers. 

“Allocations are based on the amount states are provided by the federal government,” said MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin. “Not all locations receive as much vaccine as they request, which is why we have requested additional vaccine from the federal government.”

Delays Hamper Appointments in Detroit

Uncertainty over the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine in Michigan is prompting Detroit to make new arrangements. The city received 6,000 doses this week, though it had expected upwards of 9,000. As a result, those scheduled to receive the Pfizer shot are now getting the Moderna equivalent. Mayor Mike Duggan says the shortfall will not affect patients’ first appointments at the TCF Center vaccination facility and is urging concerned patients not to tie up the city’s scheduling hotline, as new arrangements will be made on-site as patients receive their first dose of the vaccine

“You don’t need to call anybody. Don’t need to do anything,” Duggan said. “Just show up at your scheduled time, we’ve got enough supplies on hand to do the thousand vaccinations a day that we’re now doing at TCF.” 

But arrangements for the second dose of the vaccine will be delayed one week. Duggan says uncertainty about supply is affecting the city’s eligibility roll out. K-12 teachers, childcare workers, and residents over the age of 70 are eligible for an inoculation. Residents 65 and up can also receive the vaccine if they drive a neighbor over the age of 70. Appointments must be made by calling 313-230-0505.

 “I want to go to age 65, but I can’t do it until we know that we’re getting 10,000 vaccinations a week,” Duggan explained Tuesday.

The delays are not stopping Detroit from expanding its vaccine eligibility to state and federal law enforcement who reside in the city and work at their job sites. City officials say more than 12,000 vaccination appointments have been scheduled so far. The city’s vaccine scheduling hotline is expanding language access for Spanish, Arabic and Bengali speakers who call. The TCF Center will also provide sign language interpreters for those who need them.

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  • Eli Newman
    Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.