MDHHS announces expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility



GENESEE COUNTY — More Genesee County residents are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, due to a recent expansion of vaccine availability for people over age 50 in Michigan.

Beginning on Monday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) opened vaccination eligibility to Michiganders age 50 and older with medical conditions or disabilities and caregiver family members and guardians who care for children with special health care needs. MDHHS also announced that all Michiganders age 50 and older will be eligible for a vaccine by March 22.

These changes follow an announcement from the federal government that ramped-up production will provide enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end of May.

“We are pleased to expand eligibility for more people to get vaccinated as we continue to focus on our most vulnerable and those at highest risk of severe illness due to COVID-19,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “We are well on our way to vaccinating 70 percent of Michiganders age 16 and up.”

According to the MDHHS, more than 40 percent of Michiganders age 65 and older have been vaccinated.

With the expansion in vaccine eligibility, the state is also getting its first shipments of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which was authorized by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) two weeks ago. Altogether, Michigan has received over 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to use in addition to its supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

In comparison to the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are over 90 percent effective against COVID-19, the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been deemed 85 percent effective in preventing severe symptoms and hospitalizations from the virus.

“With three safe and effective vaccines now authorized for use, people should get the first vaccine available to them,” said Khaldun. “These vaccines are the way we are going to end this pandemic.”

Even with the increase of COVID-19 vaccinations, Khaldun and other state health officials are urging everyone to continue practicing preventative measures such as properly wearing masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing to reduce the spread of the virus until most people in the state have been vaccinated.

Genesee County is currently working through Phases 1A and 1B of its COVID vaccination priorities, which include residents 65 and older, first responders, teachers and other critical infrastructure/essential workers. While supplies are increasing, Genesee County health officials are reminding locals that there is still a limited amount of the vaccine available, requiring the necessity for waitlists for appointments.

Genesee County residents who fall into one of the vaccine’s expanded categories are encouraged to preregister for a vaccine appointment at gc4me.com by clicking on the banner at the top of the page.

Eligible residents should also check out additional vaccination sites, such as local hospitals and pharmacies like Meijer or Rite Aid, to learn about their vaccine availability and/or to fill out registration forms.

Residents who don’t have access to the internet or who need assistance navigating the vaccine scheduling process can call the MDHHS COVID-19 hotline at 888-535- 6136 (press 1), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.