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NMU could receive vaccines soon

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University’s Health Center could be notified any day of its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses.

From the point of delivery about 24 hours later, the Vielmetti Health Center must safely store and administer the initial supply within seven days, NMU announced.

Staff members and representatives of the university’s COVID-19 response team met last week to coordinate efforts to communicate availability, prioritize and schedule eligible groups, and plot the logistics of holding vaccine clinics in the Northern Center.

NMU indicated it will operate the vaccine clinics similar to the Passport to Campus mass COVID-19 testing events held at the beginning of both semesters this academic year. Emails will be sent to eligible individuals based on priority criteria and availability.

“I’ve reached out to Human Resources and we are coding NMU community members in priority categories that align with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ phased-in approach,” said Mike Bath, NMU police chief and COVID-19 response team co-chair, in a statement. “Then Chris Danik (director of software development and mobile apps) will tie it to our passport technology system, and it will just be a matter of how many doses we receive and how far down the list we can go with what’s available.”

Top-tier frontline essential workers at NMU have already been vaccinated. The remaining groups, in priority order that will be phased in gradually based on MDHHS guidelines and available supply, are: current employees 65 and older; other essential frontline workers — dining employees, as one example; those under 65 with pre-existing conditions and remaining essential workers; and remaining individuals under 65.

“Which category people fall in depends on their level of interactivity with other people on campus during their workday,” said Cindy Paavola, co-chair of the COVID-19 response team, in a statement. “And it’s not just volume of interaction, but the type of interaction. Michigan universities have been making the point that faculty teaching in person should be included in the higher category designated for K-12 teachers, but at the moment they are not.”

The emphasis is on vaccinating those who are regularly on campus, said Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, NMU Health Center medical director, in a statement. “Retirees and spouses are encouraged to pursue potentially faster options through the Marquette County Health Department or pharmacies,” Kirkpatrick said. “However, if the number of shipments and availability allow, those individuals will be eligible for vaccines through the health center if they haven’t already obtained them elsewhere.”

NMU will not know until the initial notification whether it will receive the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. The vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson isn’t expected to be available until possibly late March.

The Pfizer vaccine, NMU noted, is more challenging in that it requires deep-freeze storage temperatures between minus 76 and minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and must be reconstituted.

The health center has obtained a So-Low brand ultra-cold freezer so it can accept either brand.

Moderna is already constituted. NMU pharmacist Jan Nolan said it is delivered frozen, but would be kept in a health center refrigerator where it has a 30-day expiration date.

“Both Pfizer and Moderna are very fragile,” Nolan said in a statement. “We’ll need to draw them up at the Northern Center and, once we do that, they can’t be jiggled much or anything. It’s very specific how they need to be handled. The Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector, so we’re hoping that will be more stable.”

In addition to the logistics of scheduling and administering vaccines, health center staff will be responsible for entering relevant information in the Michigan Care Improvement Registry database, NMU said. The MCIR monitors how much vaccine entities have on hand daily and how quickly they use it.

Staff to begin calling people on list

The Marquette County Health Department will continue calling residents on the pre-registration list for vaccines today for appointments set for Friday.

Pre-registered individuals are asked to pay attention for a phone call from 906-475-9977 or a similar number. The MCHD will make two attempts to call, and will leave a message on the first attempt so the recipient will be prepared for the second call.

The names of anyone missing the calls will remain on the list for the next round of appointments.

Pre-registered individuals who need to cancel their appointments or have received their vaccines elsewhere are asked to call 906-475-7847 with as much advance notice as possible.

Those age 65 and older who wish to be placed on the pre-registration waiting list may visit the MCHD website at www.mqthealth.org or call 906-475-7847. Phone lines will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Online registrants will receive an email confirmation. The MCHD stressed that some people have reported their confirmations sent to junk mailboxes.

Individuals are asked not to register more than once.

New vaccine program set

The MDHHS has announced a new program to enhance the state’s equity strategy to reach more Michiganders with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.

“I am excited to announce initiatives that will help enhance the state’s equity strategy and allow us to get more vulnerable Michiganders vaccinated,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, in a statement. “Workers in higher risk agricultural settings have been adversely impacted by this pandemic. We also know that we need to remove barriers to vaccine access for our most vulnerable individuals in Michigan, including those with disabilities, lower income, and racial and ethnic minorities.

“These steps will allow our federally qualified health centers across the state to begin vaccinating and will prioritize vaccine allocation to partnerships and providers who are removing barriers to access. This strategy is important as we move forward with our goal to equitably vaccinate 70% of Michiganders over age 16 as quickly as possible.”

Starting immediately, mortuary service workers who routinely work with infectious materials will be able to be vaccinated as part of group 1A in accordance with the CDC and its advisory committee on immunization practices recommendations. In addition, 41 federally qualified health centers across the state will start receiving vaccine allocations to help vaccinate individuals age 65 and older.

These community health centers are located in medically underserved areas to provide high-quality, affordable and comprehensive medical services to everyone regardless of who they are, where they come from or their ability to pay.

Currently, persons 65 and older are eligible to be vaccinated across Michigan. Providers with specific plans to remove barriers to access across the state will also be allowed to request vaccines for people age 60 and up.

Additionally, workers in food processing and agricultural settings — about 79,000 Michiganders — will be able to be vaccinated as of March 1. This will help ensure the health and safety of Michigan’s essential food and agriculture workers and keep the state’s food supply chain moving.

MDHHS recently announced the state’s strategy to get 70% of Michiganders age 16 and older vaccinated as quickly as possible. The strategy is being guided by the following principles:

≤ All Michiganders have equitable access to vaccines;

≤ Vaccine planning and distribution is inclusive and actively engages state and local government, public and private partners, and draws upon the experience and expertise of leaders from historically marginalized populations;

≤ Communications are transparent, accurate and frequent public communications to build public trust;

≤ Data is used to promote equity, track progress and guide decision-making; and

≤ Resource stewardship, efficiency and continuous quality improvement drive strategic implementation.

Ishpeming Public Schools updates plan

The Ishpeming Public Schools Board of Education on Monday approved several changes to the district’s Back-to-School Preparedness and Response Plan 2020-21.

The plan includes changes that will be incorporated into Phase 5.

One section involves indoor assemblies, which can be held with in-house personnel but must keep grades and cohorts separated. A change OK’d on Monday allows an exception in which, following all safety protocol, a winter high school homecoming assembly in the gym will be allowed.

Another change approved on Monday dictates that school field trips may be approved by the building principal, with each trip organized with single grades or cohorts.

Other activities will be incorporated into Phase 5 as well:

≤ No school indoor assemblies will be held with an outside presenter;

≤ Outdoor spectator events are allowed with limits of 250 people while using facial masks and maintaining social distancing between families; and

≤ Staff and students will not be required to wear masks while outside at recess or when on class walks as long as a distance of 6 feet is maintained between individuals.

IPS Superintendent Carrie Meyer also provided an extended COVID-19 learning update involving two-way communication in the school district, which she noted averaged about 83% for the last month.

“We have to have 75%, so we continue to hit the target for those online learners,” Meyer said.

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