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COVID-19 vaccinations ongoing in Marquette County

Health department urges patience; currently administering 600 shots per week

A dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is prepared in a syringe before a second round of vaccinations were administered at Beaumont Health in Southfield on Jan. 5. (AP photo)

MARQUETTE — Many questions and concerns have been raised about the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process.

While vaccine remains in short supply and could for quite some time, the majority of needles that the Marquette County Health Department does have available are going into people’s arms.

MCHD Health Officer Gerry Messana told The Mining Journal on Friday afternoon that less than 5% of the department’s vaccine supply remains in the freezer. Through its vaccine clinics for ages 65 and older, the department has been averaging 600 vaccinations per day.

“Capacity and infrastructure are not the problem, limited vaccine supply is the problem,” Messana said.

While the health department has been bombarded with phone calls as locals anxiously await their turn, Messana ensured that the supply chain issue starts at the federal level.

“Vaccine is generally allocated by the federal government to the states and then to the local health departments and hospitals,” he said. “Vaccines being distributed to the state of Michigan are roughly 60,000 per week. Until manufacturers ramp up production or a new manufacturer comes into the picture, supplies will continue to be scarce.”

One player that could change the game in the weeks ahead is Johnson & Johnson. The pharmaceutical company is expected to submit its clinical trial results soon.

“What I have heard is that Johnson & Johnson will be submitting the results of its clinical trials to the Food and Drug Administration some time in the next few weeks,” Messana said. “It’s possible that their vaccines could become available sometime by the end of February, which will help the situation.”

MCHD has requested a weekly amount from the state’s 60,000 per week allocation, but the state will soon be moving to a more efficient distribution strategy based on population.

“Up until now, we’ve done a weekly request and the state decides how much of our order to fill,” Messana said. “The state will be moving to a population-based strategy for allocation, but I’m not familiar enough with the process at this time to predict what this might mean for our weekly allocations.”

MCHD has developed a new process to make appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning on Monday.

The online portal at mqthealth.org will open at 10 a.m. Monday and stay open until further notice. Individuals are asked to click on the pre-registration link.

Phone lines at 906-475-7847 also will open at 10 a.m. and will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday until further notice.

MCHD said it has significantly increased phone system capacity and personnel to staff the phone lines.

Pre-registration, according to the health department, means an individual’s name will go on a list for an appointment. The MCHD receives weekly notification from the state of Michigan as to how many vaccines will be allocated to Marquette County.

Once the county receives confirmation of the allocation, it will use the pre-registration list to call individuals and schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine.

Staff will call people on the list on a first-come, first-serve basis to set up appointments. The MCHD stressed that people who register online will not have an advantage over people who register over the phone.

It is necessary to register only once. The MCHD said if someone registers multiple times, the reservation will be overwritten, which might delay the person’s scheduling.

For elderly folks who are homebound and unable to make it to a vaccine clinic site, Messana said plans are in the works with the Marquette County Retired Senior Volunteer Program to get that demographic vaccinated as well.

“We are working with RSVP to coordinate with other agencies to help us identify and reach out to those individuals so that we can make special arrangements to get them vaccinated,” Messana said.

Those unable to reach a vaccination clinic are urged to call RSVP at 906-315-2607 for any questions or inquiries.

Messana finished by asking the public to keep their patience while vaccines continue to roll out.

“We want to make sure people can be patient,” he said. “We just want them to know that we’re at the mercy of the supply chain.”

For more information on future vaccine clinics and the latest updates on COVID-19 and vaccinations, visit www.mqthealth.org.

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