COVID-19 Town Hall With Kerry Ebersole, Protect MI CommissionMarch 31, 2021
The State of Michigan’s Kerry Ebersole, leader of the Protect MI Commission, joined the Detroit Regional Chamber to discuss the massive Ford Field operation to vaccinate Michiganders and the state’s progress toward herd immunity.
At Ford Field
Ebersole opened with an update and advice regarding the Ford Field vaccine clinic. The team there has administered more than 38,000 shots in the past week. This number includes some of the mobile sites being used to get into the communities. As for securing an appointment at Ford Field, it is best to register to sign up for an appointment. Walk-in availability is sparse and unreliable, so Ebersole advises getting an appointment set up.
Across the State
Early on in the rollout, Ebersole said, the biggest challenge with getting Michiganders vaccinated was lack of supply. Now, as supply increases and community partnerships continue to come online, the percentage of those 65 and above across the state is showing consistent progress. Initial data is promising regarding cases in this age group, showcasing the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Impact of Michigan’s Case Surge
The challenge now is balancing the optimism of having safe and effective vaccines and the benefits of more of the population receiving them with the caution that needs to be upheld as cases continue to rise across the state. It is important to consider that we know what works, said Ebersole. Vaccines, masking, and social distancing still work and should continue to be at the forefront of prevention efforts.
“As our vaccination rates go up, I think we’ve got to continually be aware of younger folks…Pediatric cases in ICUs in Michigan hospitals are a national story right now,” said Ebersole. “Even as we adults may start to be protected, there are still transmissions happening with younger folks.”
With transmissions continuing to occur, the virus still has the potential to keep mutating and stray further from what the vaccines currently available are designed to address.
“This is why it is really our individual responsibility to not only protect ourselves and our loved ones but be thoughtful in terms of how we’re engaging with other families,” said Ebersole.
We’re seeing direct coordination with manufacturers to buy more vaccines and up their production to get more vaccines into the state.
“Our new goal is to hit at least 100,000 shots in arms a day,” said Ebersole. “And that is directly related in terms of what we’re seeing in our allocation from the feds.”
Ebersole also said the state will do whatever it can to strive toward herd immunity by the Fourth of July, a milestone the Biden administration has referenced in terms of a timeline for immunity.
What Employers Can Do
“Many [employers] have been, as you mentioned, sharing information – whether that is through newsletters and emails. I don’t think we should undersell the importance of that,” said Ebersole.
Employees want to know what the data is, why it’s important, and how it impacts them, so these regular methods of communication are critical. Ebersole also advises employers to also stress the urgency of the matter when discussing vaccination with employees.
Other tactics include developing incentives to encourage employees to get the vaccine and making it more accessible through on-site vaccine clinics. The state is available to help set up a vaccine for businesses with 250 or more employees. There are two things that need to be shared with the state for businesses interested in an on-site clinic: the business location and the number of employees on-site. Businesses should also connect with local health departments to see what options are available there. Something important to consider, though, in this process is if a business wants to vaccinate its entire workforce in a single day because of the potential for widespread side effects.
Large-scale clinics will be a major part of the equation for at least the next three months, said Ebersole, though additional community-based operations continue to be added.
“Right now we’re very focused on speed,” said Ebersole. She cited that as a key benefit of the large-scale vaccination clinics – that thousands of people can get vaccinated in a single day.
“What we know from research at least, is for vaccine-hesitant communities, it’s very much about access points and making it as easy and readily [available] as possible for folks to get their vaccine,” said Ebersole. Further, the Biden administration is supporting vaccine distribution to national pharmacy chains, which is helping with broader access. What’s also important, Ebersole said, is establishing mobile sites and working with community centers, churches, and the like to serve as trustworthy and accessible sites for people on a grassroots level.
“We need to really bolster our work to address hesitancy,” said Ebersole. “Let’s leave no stone unturned. I want to make sure that we are amping our communications in particular and messengers that connect with those segment of Michiganders.”
In communities of color and senior populations, for example, personal physicians and peers will serve as effective messengers to encourage and inform hesitant groups or those without access to the latest information to get vaccinated.
In closing, Ebersole asked that people support these efforts on social media, amplifying facts, and talking to your communities about the importance of getting vaccinating and getting the first shot available to you as soon as you can.