Michigan's vaccine crusade hits a harder stretch: Reaching the reluctant and resistant

April 24, 2021, 8:24 AM by  Alan Stamm

More than four months after the first Pfizer vaccines went into arms, Michigan reaches a new stage of efforts to innoculate at least 70% of residents over 16.

Now that everyone who wants Covid immunity can get it, the focus turns to attracting holdouts by making it more convenient, more appealing and even mandatory to live on campus. "Incentives" enter the conversation -- a soft way of saying payoffs or bribes for a health step that's its own reward.  

But hey, whatever works to enlarge the protected herd as "vaccination efforts enter a critical and perilous stage," in the words of coverage this week at Bridge Michigan:.

After months in which a frenzy for vaccines far exceeded the state’s limited supply, officials are beginning to see a softening in demand, with weekly vaccination numbers in parts of the state beginning to slacken. And so begins the hard work of reaching residents who have been reluctant or indifferent to getting shots. ...

Health officials [will] attempt to connect with the vaccine-hesitant, the marginalized, the homebound, or those who just haven’t yet taken the time, including many younger adults.

As of Friday, only 33.7% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated (2.7 million out of 8.1 million who qualify). That beats the national pace (27%) but is a far cry from Michigan's goal.

A Detroit dashboard lists the city's rate as 28.6%. The state health department shows Oakland at 37.7% and Wayne County beyond Detroit at 35.3% and Macomb at 31.5%.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist sees word-of-mouth testimonials as an important tool to boost participation. "When you got a vaccine, you should talk about your experience," he said this week, according to WDIV

(Graphic: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services)

To get closer to the 70% goal, officials in Lansing, counties and large cities are rolling out more pop-up clinics, vaccine vans and financial rewards:

Detroit adds drive-up shots, starting Monday, at Straight Gate Church, 10100 Grand River Ave., from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. City health department sites also include five neighborhood clinics each weekday and three at churches from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Walk-ins without appointments are OK. (See locations and hours.)

► Dearborn Heights offers Moderna shots to residents of any community from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday (April 25) at Berwyn Senior Center, 16155 Richardson St. Appointments can be scheduled online or by calling (313) 791-3420. Walk-ins may be accepted after 3 p.m. if doses last.

Protective poke at Wayne State's Heath Center recently. (Photo: WSU)

Wayne State students can get a $10 OneCard account credit by submitting a digital photo of at least their first vaccine by May 7. They can make a Campus Health Center appointment or get the shot anywhere else. 

Detroit school district teachers and staff who get a shot by June 30 earn a $500 bonus. The incentive, also given to those already vaccinated, includes up to 16 hours of sick leave to account for possible vaccine side effects.

► Employer payments: Wallside Windows of Taylor, General RV of Wixom and Kroger give $100 bonuses to fully vaccinated staffers. Canine to Five, a pet grooming and boarding business in Detroit and Ferndale, offers $50, plus an extra $100 if the entire team gets vaccinated.

Oakland University students living in six residence halls, two campus apartment buildings or Greek cottages must provide vaccination proof before fall semester move-in Aug. 27. 

► University of Michigan students living on the Ann Arbor campus must be vaccinated by July 15. At the Dearborn campus, all undergrads will need proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test each week.

Bridge cites these other strategies:

  • The state health agency is creating posts for Tik Tok, Instagram and Snapchat in an effort to reach younger residents.

  • Some hospital systems consider offering vaccines in emergency rooms.

  • A Ludington manufacturer, Floracraft, hosts a half-day vaccine clinic for employees and family members next week. Workers who roll up their sleeves, or already received shots, get $50 gift cards.

  • Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, working withg Munson HealthCare, offers on-site vaccines next week to employees and visitors -- with a $10 wagering credit as a lure.

  • Interns at District Health Department Number 10, covering 10 mid-Michigan counties, are being trained to ask patrons at dollar stores, food pantries and laundromats about interest in a vaccine. If they don’t have internet access, the interns can help them get scheduled on-the-spot. "It's really a survey to find out what it would take to encourage people to get a vaccine," says Sarah Oleniczak, a Ludington-based deputy health officer.

Prominent national blogger Andrew Sullivan posted Friday (paywalled) that he'd welcome a nudge from "some indoor spaces — bars, restaurants, hotels — [by] requiring proof of vaccination to get in. We need the attraction of going back to normal life to incentivize vaccination."

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