The excitement was almost electric.
“Gloves!” a Wayne County Public Health Division employee says.
“Can somebody take my picture? I wanna picture of this,” her partner says excitedly.
An insert is lifted out of a large box. What looks like fog streams out.
“And there it is,” one employee says as she peers inside. “That’s the box.”
An employee pulls out and opens a smaller box, removing a tray of the most precious cargo health department officials in Michigan have ever handled.
Their first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Get a tray. We got two,” one of the employees says in a nearly two-minute video of employees unpacking the vaccine Thursday. “We’re all very excited.”
“Do it! Yes!” is heard as one of employees carries the two trays of the Pfizer vaccine to a nearby ultra-cold freezer, saying in a sing-song voice: “I’m so excited. I love this so much!”
She opens the freezer door and places the trays in the bottom compartment.
“Vaccine. Vaccine,” she says as she places each tray inside before closing the compartment door, then the larger outer freezer door.
“Great job!” “Yeah!” is heard in a backdrop of cheers and applause.
Health departments in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties received their first shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, with at least two counties planning to give their first inoculations Friday.
Washtenaw County received 1,950 doses of the vaccine Thursday, said Susan
Ringler Cerniglia, health department spokeswoman.
The city of Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer Hakim Berry said the city health department has not received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines. He said officials anticipate receiving that shipment before year’s end and the vaccines will be distributed in accordance with the plan laid out by the state.
“The City has partnered with Henry Ford Health System, its occupation health provider, to administer the vaccine first to our medical first responders, which includes EMS and firefighters that are cross trained to take medical runs,” Berry said. “We anticipate having these personnel scheduled within the next two weeks.”
Officials said the vaccines the city will receive will be Moderna, which is undergoing review and could receive emergency use authorization very soon. The vaccines will go directly to the health system, not the city, per se, since the health system will be doing the vaccinations, officials said.
The county health department shipments arrived the same day that the state indicated it may be getting 24,000 fewer doses of the vaccine than originally expected. More than 11,200 people have died from the coronavirus in Michigan, which has recorded more than 450,000 positive cases.
The Wayne County Public Health Division received its shipment of 1,950 doses at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, said Bill Nowling, spokesman for County Executive Warren Evans. The Oakland County Health Division also received 1,950 doses.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said Monday that officials there were expecting about 1,950 doses as well.
Nowling said vaccinations will start Friday at the Health Administration Building in Wayne, in accordance with state guidelines to inoculate direct health care workers and emergency medical service personnel first.
In Oakland County, initial vaccinations will begin by appointment only Friday in Waterford for EMS personnel who have indirect or direct exposure to patients.
In Washtenaw County, Cerniglia said “we will start vaccinating our vaccinators and clinic staff as soon as possible. Clinics have been scheduled for (Friday), so we can likely keep that schedule. Then we will progress to health care providers not being vaccinated through a hospital or health systems and EMS.”
Macomb County Deputy Executive Vicki Wolber said officials are working out the schedule there, but EMS workers will be the first to receive injections at the vaccination clinic set up at the VerKuilen Building in Clinton Township.
“We’re obviously glad, like everyone else, to have our first shipment in and to start solidifying our plans to get that out to our first priority groups; but obviously, it will be a process,” she said.
Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said the health division is ready to assist in the vaccination of its residents “as we celebrate the remarkable science that got us to this turning point in defeating this dangerous pandemic.
“Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all our residents and workers,” he said. “We remain determined to follow science and public health, share information on the safety of the vaccine and keep our guard up against the virus.”
Vaccinations for EMS workers will continue in the coming days at various locations in Oakland County. The health division is coordinating with EMS companies and fire departments to stagger doses among their employees.
It’s also offering the vaccine to its public health nurses who will be vaccinating EMS workers and eventually other members of the public at the county’s drive-thru testing locations when the vaccine becomes available to the general public. That’s not expected until the late spring.
“This is the start of phase one of our vaccine distribution plan, which aligns with the requirements of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Oakland County Health Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford said. “This vaccine has been tested safely on tens of thousands of volunteers and has shown to be effective.”
The Oakland County Health Division expects to receive its next round of doses sometime after the first of the year.
Contact Christina Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.
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