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Pilot program aims to distribute COVID vaccines equally

The goal of the program is to make sure everyone in Michigan has access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has announced a new pilot program to enhance the state’s vaccine equity strategy.

“We want to make sure all Michiganders have access to the safe and effective vaccines as we work toward our goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders age 16 and up as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “We are working hard to eliminate any barriers to vaccine access. Your ability to get a vaccine should not be impacted by whether you are in a rural or urban part of the state, are lower income, or don’t have access to a car, a computer, the Internet or don’t speak English. This is what equity means.”

The goal of the program is to make sure everyone in Michigan has access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The pilot program attempts to remove barriers to vaccine access for people 60 and older who live in areas with a high social vulnerability index (SVI) and a high COVID-19 mortality rate.

SVI is a tool that uses census data to identify places where a community may have more difficulty preventing human suffering and financial loss in a disaster. It assesses the extent that 15 known indicators are present within a community based on socioeconomic status, family composition and disability, minority status and language, housing and transportation. 

"We are very excited to learn from this pilot program so then we can more broadly implement these strategies across the state," said Kerry Ebersole, special adviser for the Protect Michigan Commission, which was created by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Health care providers are encouraged to apply who are already federally approved to administer the COVID-19 vaccines and can successfully manage the vaccine including storage, identifying a method for second doses, and entering doses administered into the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR) within 24 hours. Applicants will help to identify the barriers in their communities and the specific strategies they will take to address those barriers, including, but not limited to:

  • Transportation
  • Language
  • Access related to sensory, cognitive, emotional or physical disabilities
  • Vaccine hesitancy
  • Other barriers experienced by underserved and minority populations

Applicants are also encouraged to highlight strong partnerships with community-based organizations, as well as demonstrate their ability to effectively reach out to their most vulnerable residents over the age of 60.

The state does not have a set number of providers it plants to award, but those who are chosen can request up to 2,500 doses. The doses must be administered within two weeks at which point the state will assess the success of the pilot. 

The application letters submitted will identify specific strategies that can be implemented as soon as the provider is awarded a vaccine allocation. Applications must be emailed by 5 p.m., Monday, March 1.

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