The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in Detroit on Thursday to urge people to get vaccinated.
At the Detroit Healthy Housing Center, a vaccine clinic on the city’s lower east side, Dr. Mandy Cohen says winter is the time for respiratory illnesses and there are ways to be ready.
“We want to make sure that we are using all the tools we know work to protect each other this holiday season,” she said. “As we get into December and deeper into the winter, we know we’re going to see more viruses and more bacteria circulating, particularly as we gather for holiday parties or travel for Christmas.”
About 800 people in Michigan are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the state health department. Nationally, the virus continues to cause the most hospitalizations and deaths among respiratory illnesses — about 15,000 hospitalizations and about 1,000 deaths every week, according to the CDC.
There are dramatic differences in vaccination rates for the flu and COVID in the state, with more than 2.2 million people receiving their flu shot compared to only 940,000 who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Michigan since the latest vaccines became available in mid-September.
“I think the flu vaccine is part of people’s regular routine, they’re sort of used to it — ‘oh it’s that time of year again I’ll get the flu shot,'” said Cohen. “I think COVID is newer so we need to add that to our routine as well.”
Cases of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, are also on the rise nationwide, Cohen said, adding that there are now vaccines available for small children and for pregnant women in their third trimester. Though RSV typically produces mild cold-like symptoms, it can be particular dangerous for infants and older people.
“If you’re a pregnant mom and you’re between 32 and 36 weeks, we also have a new vaccine for pregnant moms to protect their babies against RSV,” she said.
There has been a limited supply of RSV vaccines available in recent months due to production delays from manufacturers, but Cohen said she expects more doses to become available in December and January. Cohen said parents interested in getting their children vaccinated against RSV should “call their pediatrician, see if it’s available, and make sure that their pediatrician is knowing that they want to get vaccinated.”
Cohen said local health departments meeting people where they are can be a huge help to ending health care disparities in Black and brown communities.
“Pairing together folks who are already trusted and doing great work and then saying, ‘hey how about a vaccine as well,’ I think that partnership is really important.”