Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroit Pushing to Vaccinate Seniors, Holding COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics at Churches

Detroit Pushing to Vaccinate Seniors, Holding COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics at Churches

February 10, 2021
Detroit leaders are pushing to get senior citizens, some of the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, vaccinated through clinics at two of the city’s largest churches and by providing rides to the TCF Center garage mass drive-thru vaccination site.

Mayor Mike Duggan said Tuesday that of the 1,800 Detroiters who have died from the virus, more than 70% were age 65 years and older. In the last two weeks, he said, 15 of the city’s 16 deaths from the virus were people age 65 and older.

Mayor Mike Duggan, speaking before the COVID-19 pandemic.

He did not know whether any of the deaths were nursing home residents, who have been some of the most vulnerable to the virus since the pandemic began nearly a year ago.

Duggan said the city also has its first two cases of of the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus.

Before Duggan’s briefing, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive for the state health department, said she was “very concerned about what we are seeing with the new B.1.1.7 variant.”

“We now know of 45 cases of the variants identified in Michigan, across 10 counties. And there will be more. While this variant first appeared in the U.K., the cases we are seeing in Michigan have not all been associated with someone who had a history of traveling, which means the variant is likely in the general community.

“This variant is more easily spread from person to person, meaning if we are not vigilant, we could see a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths similar to what they saw in the U.K.,” she said, adding that “available data on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines show that they are effective against this new B.1.1.7 variant. … So getting vaccinated will not only slow the spread of the usual COVID-19 virus, but will also prevent the virus from getting the opportunity to mutate as it spreads from person to person. So it’s important that as many people as possible get vaccinated as we work to end this pandemic.”

Duggan said seniors are “more at risk now than they were two weeks ago,” and officials are working to reach the most vulnerable in the places closest to them.

Duggan announced Senior Saturday — vaccine clinics for those age 65 and older — at Fellowship Chapel, 7707 West Outer Drive, on the city’s west side, and at Second Ebenezer Church, 14601 Dequindre, on the east side.

Fellowship Chapel will host a fair from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, while Second Ebenezer Church will hold a fair from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. The events will repeat Feb. 20, Feb. 27 and March 6, with up to 500 vaccinations being scheduled at each location each day.

Duggan plans to announce more senior vaccination sites in southwest Detroit and the east side starting next week.

The Rev. Wendell Anthony of Fellowship Chapel said that he and his wife received their first doses, with their second shots scheduled. While there has been hesitancy among some in the African American community to get vaccines, Anthony noted that one of the scientists behind the coronavirus vaccine’s development is an African American woman and other Black doctors and nurses also are behind the vaccines.

“These people ain’t tryin’ to take you out. They’re tryin’ to keep you in the game of life,” Anthony said.

Bishop Edgar Vann of Second Ebenezer Church said he has chronic conditions, is immunocompromised and has several comorbidities, but he and his wife both got the vaccine.

“We want to put a stop to this COVID crisis and chaos that has taken our community by storm,” he said, urging folks to get vaccinated. “Let’s put this behind us. Let’s get out in front of the variants that are out there. And let’s live.”

Mamie Cokley, 85 of Detroit receiving a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the TCF Center in Detroit. Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press.

Duggan said unlike the TCF Center garage clinic, where everyone is vaccinated in their vehicle, seniors at the church clinics will go into the churches to receive their shots.

He said the city also is giving two Meijer locations in Detroit 2,500 doses of vaccine. According to a city release, the company has a waiting list of 3,300 customers who are Detroit residents, though it’s not clear whether all of them still need a shot. Meijer will contact people on its waiting list and give them shots.

“If they still have a list of eligible people who need vaccinating beyond those initial doses, we will be able to provide them with additional ones,” Duggan said in the release.

At his briefing, Duggan also said he has talked with officials at Henry Ford Hospital and the Detroit Medical Center about opening community vaccination sites.

He said he’s also communicating with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and President Joe Biden about getting more doses of vaccine, such as 20,000 to 25,000 doses per week. Duggan said while 13% of residents in Michigan have been vaccinated, only 5% of Detroiters have received a shot.

Also, the city is providing round-trip rides for Detroiters — either for $2 or free if people can’t pay, through IntelliRide. This will allow those eligible for a shot, but who do not have transportation, to get to the TCF Center garage to be vaccinated after they schedule an appointment.

He said wheelchair-accessible vehicles also are available for the rides. Duggan said those eligible for a vaccine who are interested in the ride service can call the same number to schedule their vaccine appointment, 313-230-0505. They just need to indicate they don’t have a vehicle so a ride can be booked for them.

Duggan said officials planned to expand vaccine eligibility at the TCF Center to more groups, but decided to push to vaccinate more seniors after conversations with clergy leadership and medical staff.

The city continues to vaccinate seniors at apartment buildings, with 1,300 already vaccinated at 22 senior apartments and 18 more locations to be visited this week, said Denise Fair, the city’s chief public health officer.

The city began its drive-thru clinic nearly a month ago. Appointments are based on the weekly supply of the vaccine.

According to the city’s vaccination dashboard, updated Monday, 54,550 doses of vaccine have been received —  45,200 Moderna and 9,350 Pfizer. It states that 36,186 doses have been administered, or 66.3% of the doses received.

About 9,100 Detroiters age 65 and older and their 65-year-old and older Good Neighbor drivers — people taking them to their appointment — have been vaccinated, as well as 3,045 K-12 teachers and support staff; 2,705 first responders; 2,251 health care providers and others, including 826 in homeless shelters.

The dashboard states that 16,959 vaccines have been administered in all other qualified categories of those eligible.

This article first appeared in the Detroit Free Press and was written by Christina Hall. Staff writer Kristen Jordan Shamus contributed to this report.