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Early signs point to COVID-19 vaccine slowdown in Michigan

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a drive-thru clinic.
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

There are early signs that demand for COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan has started to level out and drop off.

State data show that 664,349 COVID vaccine doses were administered across the state during the week of April 5, which is when Michigan opened up vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 years or older. The following week, it dropped to 607,517 doses.

Metro Detroit is helping to drive that trend. The city of Detroit and surrounding regions — Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties — all saw drops in the number of vaccine doses administered between the first two full weeks of April.

It’s still early to say whether this is a dip or a trend. But Bill Nowling, a spokesperson for Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, said the county’s health department — which serves county residents outside the city of Detroit — has been giving out fewer shots for several weeks now.

Nowling said there are likely two main reasons for that trend. The first is that there are simply more and more places for people to get vaccinated. The second is that seniors, the group most highly motivated to do so, have had access for some time and the highest rates of vaccination.

Now, “We’re into a group or demographic of the population that is more resistant to getting the vaccine for any number of reasons,” Nowling said. “Now we’re in kind of the middle to late adopters, which are more reluctant to get the vaccine. And it’s going to be harder to do that. So we have to change our tactics in terms of how we communicate with them, but also just in terms of how we deploy.”

Nowling said for Wayne County, that includes shifting hours at county vaccine clinics to accommodate possible work scheduling conflicts, and making them all open to walk-ins. He said around 50% of all eligible Wayne County residents outside of Detroit have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

In the city of Detroit, that number is still less than 30%. Mayor Mike Duggan is making efforts to boost the city’s lagging vaccination rate by opening up walk-in clinics across the city, and urging community leaders who have been vaccinated to encourage other Detroiters to do the same. A recent University of Michigan survey showed that 38% of Detroiters said they were “very likely” to get a COVID vaccine. Twenty-five percent said they were “very unlikely” to do so — a rate that roughly matches the national average.

Overall, around 46% of eligible people in Michigan have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and 33% are now fully immunized.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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