The Upper Peninsula is among the leaders in immunization rates within the state of Michigan, where 12 per cent of those 16 years of age and up have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the most recent data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), a total of 66,375 doses (39,975 Pfizer doses, 26,400 Moderna doses) have been distributed in the U.P. A total of 50,079 doses have been administered in Yooper country to date.
Across the river from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., a total of 7,075 doses have been distributed in Chippewa County (4,875 Pfizer, 2,200 Moderna), with 6,993 doses administered as of Feb. 4.
The Chippewa County Health Department (CCHD) has distributed 3,802 of those vaccines since the doses began arriving in the county Dec. 16.
“We’ve had an incredible demand. I don’t know what our rates are, but I know that as soon as we open our phone lines, we get hundreds within a couple minutes,” said Charity Zimmerman, family and personal health supervisor for CCHD. “The demand is really high, so that’s good.”
The Michigan government is rolling out the vaccine in phases, with Phase 1A - consisting of healthcare workers, along with long-term care residents and staff - as the first priority group.
In Chippewa County, the health department says it has completed vaccinations for Phase 1A, and is now working on Phase 1B, which includes people 75 years of age or older, and prioritized frontline workers who have frequent intense exposure due to the nature of their work and who are unable to maintain social distancing measures, such as first responders, healthcare providers, teachers, congregate childcare centres, teachers from pre-kindergarten through to high school, corrections workers and workers in homeless shelters.
And now, Phase 1B of the vaccination rollout is even more broad after Michigan combined Phase 1B with Phase 1C, which includes ages 65-74, those 16 years of age and over with COVID-19 risk factors and pre-existing conditions, and all remaining essential workers.
Zimmerman says that CCHD has already vaccinated 75 per cent of residents within the county who fall under Phase 1B.
“This group is huge, so it’s going to take us a long time to get through this,” she told SooToday. “We’ll probably be in the 1B until either April or May.”
The health department can’t project a timeline for the completion of the vaccination rollout in Chippewa County, because it’s dependent upon the weekly allocation from the federal government.
Zimmerman says that lately, the CCHD has been receiving 400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine per week.
“We can’t really plan farther than one week in advance each week, so if we don’t get an allocation that we expect...it’s difficult to plan,” she said. “If I had to guess, I would say late summer, but again, that would all depend on vaccine availability.”
Zimmerman says the collaborative approach between institutions in rolling the vaccine out in Chippewa County has been working so far.
“I feel like we’ve done an amazing job in our county, between the hospital and the health department collaborating and getting it out to our communities,” she said.