Macomb County requests 50,000 weekly COVID-19 doses

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published January 27, 2021




MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel is sending a message to the federal government: We are here to vaccinate, but what is missing are doses.

On Jan. 22, Hackel sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting that the county receive 50,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses weekly. Currently, the county receives approximately 5,000 doses weekly from the state.

Biden’s plan involves administering 100 million shots in his first 100 days of office, essentially vaccinating 50 million Americans, since two doses are required.

In the meantime, 50,000 weekly doses are estimated to vaccinate about 40% of Macomb County’s approximately 890,000 residents in that same 100-day period. Hackel said that if you subtract children ages 16 and under, as well as residents who choose to forego the vaccine altogether, that percentage becomes much higher than the 40% number.

“We are in the business of vaccinating people,” Hackel said Jan. 22. “We have done this for decades. We have the resources, the personnel, the locations, the ability to handle the logistics of this. We can handle 50,000 doses a week. We don’t need anything else from the state or federal government other than the vaccines to accommodate.”

A vaccination headquarters has been set up at the Verkuilen Building in Clinton Township, on Dunham Road near the county jail. Hackel estimated that 12,000 shots have been administered so far.

Hackel directed some blame at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for opening up vaccine tiers while knowing there were not enough vaccinations available.

“It puts us at an incredible disadvantage,” he said. “The limited supply we are getting, it causes us to look like we are underperforming. We need 50,000 doses and we can help (Biden) with his goal.

“We are now able to fulfill the position the state has put us in in trying to handle the demand. The demand made by the state has not been met by the supply.”

While emergency service workers were originally the highest priority of vaccination, the state recently opened vaccinations to a larger population that includes residents over the age of 65, school employees, members of law enforcement, correctional officers, childcare workers, homeless shelter workers and municipal employees.

Vaccine eligibility was extended to multiple groups, though Hackel said individuals 75 years and older — along with those 65 years and older with previous health conditions — should have been treated before expansion, “period.”

Meanwhile, frontline workers — such as those at grocery stores who have worked daily since the pandemic’s beginning — are not included in that top priority.

Hackel questioned how the state is administering doses, and how different numbers of doses are being administered to various communities — notably those in metro Detroit.

The state was “basically creating a crisis within a crisis,” he said, due to only health departments receiving flurries of calls from citizens requesting the vaccine, rather than the state itself.

“How many (doses) is the state taking off the top, and for whom? … Right now, it’s a free-for-all and everyone is angry,” he stated. “And who are they angry at? The only location that offers appointments, and that’s the local health department. Everybody should have stayed on message and said, ‘Hold on, we don’t have enough (doses).’”

Bobby Leddy, deputy press secretary for Whitmer’s office, said Jan. 24 that Hackel has a “misunderstanding” regarding vaccine distribution and administration.

Every COVID-19 vaccine allocated to Michigan has either been administered or is scheduled to be administered via appointment, Leddy said, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed Michigan’s lead to expand access to anyone 65 years or older because they are in the highest risk group.

He stated that the federal government distributes vaccines, not the state, and blamed slow distribution by former President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Michigan continues to make significant progress to ensure that every vaccine is delivered to a Michigander who needs it,” Leddy stated. “The state of Michigan has a plan to administer 50,000 vaccinations per day when there is an adequate supply of vaccine, but the Trump administration never had a national strategy to ramp up vaccine production, which created a bottleneck across the nation.

“We are glad to see President Biden take strong leadership on his first full day in office to implement a clear national strategy that ramps up production of supplies for vaccines to help us vaccinate Michiganders more quickly.”

At its Jan. 21 meeting, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of Presidio Amazon Web Services as a new call center to handle vaccination appointments.

The system cost $9,000 to implement and will cost an additional $10,000 per month, starting in January and continuing until no longer necessary, for information technology. The system is paid for through Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding.