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Vaccinations are picking up pace in Michigan, at least a little

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

Until now, Jeremy McCormick thought he was going to be able to “wait this out.” But the Ann Arbor bartender says he changed his mind about the COVID-19 vaccine, after watching the staff at the restaurant next door “get hit pretty hard” by the virus. So on Tuesday, McCormick drove out to the Washtenaw County Health Department walk-in vaccination clinic to get his first shot. 


“Obviously, we're going through a pretty big resurgence right now [in the U.S.] with the delta and lambda variant. I just figured it's got to get it done. It’s time to make sure we actually get rid of this virus now,” he said. “I thought we were going to be safe beforehand. And, nope. I’m not trying to be a part of continuing this virus anymore.”

McCormick is part of a small, but noticeable, increase in vaccinations the last six or so weeks in Michigan. The pace of new shots in arms hit a low point in early July, with only about 7,200 on average per day. Now it’s been hovering between the 10,000 to 12,000 range. That’s not enough to dramatically change the state’s overall immunization rate - just over 59% of those 12 and older have had at least one shot. 

But it is a sign, health experts say, of several new factors: More employers are mandating vaccinations for workers. Kids are going back to school - including Shimul Bhuva’s son, who came in to get his second shot on Tuesday. They got him a vaccine appointment as soon as they he turned 12.

“We’ve been virtual since the shutdown, so going back in person is kind of a big deal,” said Bhuva, an Ann Arbor resident. “And we want to do it the right way. And we’re fortunate that he’s old enough to get vaccinated. We’re very excited. It’s what’s needed right now, and that extra layer of protection, especially against the delta variant.” 

Concerns about the variant are also spurring those like McCormick.

“Now I’m thinking I’m one of the only people that doesn’t have it [at work],” he said. “I worked three jobs, so it just was hard to get out here to do it. I took today off and tomorrow for it. So we’ve gotta get it done.” 

And, as of this week, people with compromised immune systems are being encouraged by the CDC to get a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. 

That’s the case for Kevin Johnson, who survived a battle with cancer six years ago. He and his wife, Linda Johnson, lived apart for the first year of the pandemic because Linda’s work as a nurse brought her in contact with COVID patients. Now, after talking it over with his oncologist, they’ve come to this Ypsilanti clinic to get Kevin a third shot. 

“You just don’t want to do the wrong thing,” Linda Johnson said. “But some of his [immune system’s] cells never came back. So we already know that he’s going to be compromised forever. We’ll be wearing a mask in public, I’m sure, for the rest of our life.”


Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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