Munson Healthcare and northern Michigan health departments agree there is another week of good news when it comes to the Coronavirus. But the push continues for vaccines as most communities are still short of the goal of the 70% vaccination rate.
Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christine Nefcy says, “The rolling average of our percent positivity is at 3.3% which is awesome. It’s been a long time since we’ve been that low.” Case counts are down across the region, and Munson says there are just 10 patients across their entire hospital network. Vaccination rates keep climbing. “We have given over 84,000 vaccines in our Munson Healthcare northern Michigan region.”
That’s in addition to the 45,000 doses given by the Grand Traverse Health Department. And Northwest Michigan Health Services CEO Heidi Britton says her agency has added 5,000 doses to the community. And in the region of District Health Department #10, Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Morse says, “In our ten counties we have passed the 100,000 mark in terms of our total number of vaccines given.”
In terms of percentages, Dr. Nefcy says, “In our northern Michigan Munson Healthcare region, we’re at 58.5% vaccinated. So we are approaching that number where we’d like.” In the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department, they’ve achieved the 70% mark. That includes ages 16 and up, where 70.5% have received at least one dose. That number is in 61.6% for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. Health Officer Lisa Peacock says, “We are still striving for the goal of 70% of the population being vaccinated. That’s the minimum that we need for community protection…. we’re aiming to surpass that.”
To reach that goal, health departments are taking steps to make the vaccine more readily available, by expanding walk-in clinics and hosting pop-up clinics at places like convenience stores, bars and restaurants, and grocery stores. Britton says, “We are committed to making this vaccine easy to access.”
Dr. Nefcy says, “If you are not yet immunized, and you have questions, that’s okay. a lot of people have questions… your primary care provider knows you best so we would invite you first to go there.”
Grand Traverse County Health Officer Wendy Hirschenberger says, “The rest of the week we are at Cherryland mall (Cherryland Center on Garfield at South Airport) for anyone who wants to walk in and get either Johnson and Johnson, or first dose.” Peacock adds, “We are trying to make the vaccine as available as we can to everyone in the community. We’re bringing it out into the corners of cur communities. We’re taking away barriers… now getting to this goal of 70% is really in the hands of individuals, who will make the choice to get vaccinated.”
The Benzie-Leelanau Health Department will host clinics on Wednesday from 11-2:30 at Stapleton’s Market in Benzonia; and at Ambrose Cellars from 3-6 pm.
Health departments say summer is reason enough to get the vaccine if you haven’t already: the fairs and festivals mean an influx of tourists. And for students – getting vaccinated now means they’ll be ready to go back to school in the fall. Peacock says, “Before fall sports start in August we are going to encourage you to come in and get your children vaccinated early.”
Now with plenty of vaccine supply, health departments want to make it as simple as possible. “We have lots of people seeking a second dose who maybe got their first dose somewhere else. We’re just trying to make it as easy as possible. It doesn’t matter anymore in our clinics anymore. First dose, second dose, whatever brand you want, you can come to any of them,” Peacock says.
Dr. Morse says the clinics in District #10 will be winding down. “After June we’re just going to incorporate COVID vaccine into our normal vaccination clinics in our offices. So you can call for an appointment or we’ll continue to have walk-in clinics.”
Millions in the U.S. are immunocompromised, and health officials say they’re at higher risk for more severe problems from COVID. They’re urging vaccinations sooner rather than later. Hirschenberger says, “It is important because they’re more susceptible, at higher risk of experiencing more sever outcomes, that they do get vaccinated… if you have cancer, diabetes, certain heart conditions, if you’re overweight or obese…. you’re at risk for more illness.”