Vaccines hit one-year mark

MARQUETTE — The COVID-19 vaccines made history one year ago on Tuesday as Michigan began administering the first authorized vaccine, produced by Michigan-based Pfizer, at hospitals across the state, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported.

The vaccines were first administered to health care professionals and, since Dec. 14, 2020, more than 6 million state residents ages 5 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“One year ago today marked a pivotal step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and in honor of all those we’ve lost to this virus, we must reflect on all of the progress we’ve made since that time,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a Tuesday news release. “To vaccinate more than 6 million residents in the span of one year is an incredible feat, and one that brings much promise to a future beyond this pandemic.”

MDHHS urges Michigan residents who have yet to be vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Michigan reached the goal of vaccinating 70% of the population over age 16 on Nov. 15, MDHHS said. Since then, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine authorization has expanded to ages 5 and up, and residents over age 16 are eligible for a booster dose six months after their primary series.

However, those who are unvaccinated remain disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to the MDHHS. Complete data from Oct. 21 to Nov. 19 indicated 97,310, or 71%, of 137,472 cases were unvaccinated. A total of 1,134, or 72%, of 1,584 hospitalized cases and 588, or 76%, of 772 deaths were among individuals not fully vaccinated, MDHHS officials said in a news release.

“Unfortunately, as well as the vaccines work, too many Michigan residents have yet to be vaccinated and are running a very real risk of becoming hospitalized or dying from COVID,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive, in a news release. “The strain of the unvaccinated population on our health care system is absolutely a crisis, and the solution is simple: We must continue to vaccinate as many residents as we can.”

MDHHS said the ongoing weight of COVID-related hospitalizations is stretching the state’s health care system beyond its limits, and support from the U.S. Department of Defense has become necessary to support the critical health care staffing crisis facing the state’s hospitals.

“The data is clear. Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe illness and is our most powerful tool in protecting our health and reducing the strain on our health care system,” said Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Hospital Association, in a news release. “Our hospitals encourage everyone to get vaccinated, have your children vaccinated and receive your booster dose when eligible. The pandemic is clearly not over, and our health care workers need your help and support now more than ever.”

The longer the pandemic exists and the virus spreads — primarily in the unvaccinated population — the higher the risk of virus mutations, MDHHS said.

The COVID-19 omicron variant is now in Michigan and preliminary information indicates that this variant is highly transmissible and poses a “serious threat to Michigan’s overburdened health care system,” MDHHS reported.

State health department officials advise residents to get vaccinated, particularly before gathering for the holidays, including getting the booster dose to increase protection, and wearing masks — particularly indoors and in crowded areas.

Other things people can do to protect themselves and their loved ones include:

≤ getting tested for COVID-19, especially before gatherings;

≤ physically distancing from others and avoiding crowds;

≤ washing hands frequently with soap and water, and cleaning hands with alcohol-based hand rub;

≤ covering your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze;

≤ self-isolating until you recover if you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.

Nessel supports more relief

The attorney general’s office reported that $5.7 billion dedicated to Michigan this year from the American Rescue Plan Act has yet to be appropriated by the Michigan Legislature.

Attorney General Dana Nessel supports devoting at least $1 billion of that remaining funding as Hero Pay for the more than half a million Michiganders who have worked the frontlines throughout the pandemic.

“Michigan’s frontline workers have made great sacrifices throughout this pandemic and deserve added relief from the billions of dollars made available by our federal partners to help the state and its residents recover,” Nessel said in a statement. “It is my hope that Hero Pay is included among the appropriations yet to be made so that we can properly acknowledge the additional costs and risks our essential employees have faced in order to keep Michigan running.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer first announced support for the one-time grants in June. The proposal would provide between $1,500 and $2,000 to Michigan’s over 600,000 frontline workers who worked in industries that could not shut down as Michigan faced COVID-19.

NMU dashboard paused

The Northern Michigan University’s COVID-19 Dashboard, found at https://nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/dashboard, has paused data collection for the semester. The dashboard will resume operations when winter courses begin Jan. 10.

As of Friday, the reported on-campus rate of individuals reporting having been vaccinated was 76.5%.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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