Michigan announced Friday that all residents age 16 and up will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on April 5, nearly a month before the May 1 date pledged by President Joe Biden.
People age 16 to 49 with certain medical conditions or disabilities will qualify starting March 22, when 50- to 64-year-olds can begin getting shots under a previous announcement. Two days later, March 24, a federally selected regional mass vaccination site will open at Detroit’s Ford Field to administer an additional 6,000 doses a day for two months.
“The safe COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective way to protect you, your family and others from the virus,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “It will help the country get back to normal and help the economy.”
Michigan was the third state to announce broad eligibility this week. In Alaska, people 16 and older are now eligible. Utah will let those who are at least 18 be vaccinated beginning April 1.
The U.S. is expecting to have enough doses for adults by the end of May, but Biden has warned the process of actually administering those doses will take time. As of Wednesday, about 1.8 million people, 22% of Michigan’s 16-plus population, had been fully or partially vaccinated.
Whitmer and state health officials said they opened eligibility based on the amount of anticipated vaccines and the May 1 directive Biden issued in his first prime-time address Thursday. It may take “several weeks” beyond April 5 for everyone who wants the vaccine to get an appointment, according to the state health department. It said providers should, when scheduling appointments, consider a person’s risk of exposure on the job and their vulnerability to severe disease.
The site in Detroit will operate 12½ hours every day for eight weeks, vaccinating at least 168,000 people with two Pfizer shots, potentially more if a one-dose vaccine is used in the final two weeks. Detroit was selected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is prioritizing vulnerable areas. Instructions on how to book an appointment will be announced in coming days.
Kevin Sligh, FEMA’s acting administrator in the Great Lakes region, said the site will expand the vaccination rate “in an efficient, effective and equitable manner, with an explicit focus on making sure that local communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection are not left behind.” (AP)