A Phased Approach
Now that the vaccines have been authorized, West Michigan is working with State and local agencies, area hospitals, pharmacies, and other partners to implement the MDHHS plan for a phased approach to distribution. Because quantities of the vaccine are limited — and will be for the foreseeable future — this approach follows CDC guidelines and prioritizes the highest-risk populations. While timing of distribution is not yet certain and depends, largely, on vaccine supplies, vaccinations for individuals included in Phase 1A and 1B have started. Individuals in Phase 1C will be prioritized in early 2021, while individuals in Phase 2 can expect to be eligible by mid-2021.
At first, vaccine distribution will be limited and prioritized to paid and unpaid persons working in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home, as well as residents and workers in long term care facilities.
These individuals will be prioritized in the following order:
1A Priority One: Keep critical health care infrastructure open and functioning (i.e., hospitals, critical care units, and emergency medical response systems) through vaccination of staff who perform direct patient care and work in critical areas including:
- Group A: Emergency medical service providers, including medical first responders
- Group B: General medical floor
- Group C: Emergency department
- Group D: Intensive care units
1A Priority Two: Prevent outbreaks and protect residents in long-term care facilities.
- Group A: Workers who have direct contact with a large number of vulnerable residents. Note this would include staff who come in and out of the buildings.
- Skilled nursing facility staff
- Psychiatric hospital staff
- Homes for aged staff
- Adult foster care centers staff
- Assisted living facility staff
- Home health care workers caring for high risk clients with large patient loads (e.g. people with a tracheostomy/ventilator at home)
- Group B: Vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities.
- Skilled nursing facility residents
- Psychiatric hospital patients
- Homes for aged residents
- Adult foster care centers residents
- Assisted living facility residents
1A Priority Three: Keep necessary health care infrastructure functioning.
- Group A: Workers with direct patient contact who conduct high risk procedures (e.g., dentists, endoscopy, dialysis).
- Group B: Other workers who have direct patient contact, including outpatient, urgent care, ambulatory care, and home health care.
- Group C: Workers who have indirect patient contact with specialized skills critical to health care system functioning (e.g. hospital and public health laboratories, pharmacy).
Once Phase 1A groups are vaccinated, the State plan will prioritize other essential workers who keep critical infrastructure open and functioning. This includes:
- All people 65 years of age or older not covered in Phase 1A. This includes those in a congregate setting that were not already vaccinated in Phase 1A.
- Prioritized frontline workers whose job requires frequent or intense exposure to others, and who, due to the nature of their work, are not able to maintain social distance. For example, a first responder may have to physically touch other people in their response, and a childcare provider cannot maintain social distance from children when caring for their physical needs.
Specific prioritized categories are:
- Pre-Kindergarten through high school teachers, support staff and childcare workers who usually have direct contact with children
- First responders not covered in Phase 1A (e.g., firefighters, police, conservation officers, inspectors)
- Corrections workers (e.g., staff in prisons, jails, juvenile justice facilities)
- Workers in homeless shelters, congregate childcare institutions, and adult and child protective service
The next group to receive vaccines will be populations at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 infection.
- Group A: Individuals age 65 – 74 years of age.
- Group B: Individuals 16-64 years with COPD, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity or other conditions that put them at high risk of negative COVID-19 outcome.
NOTE: These prioritizations may change as further guidance from the CDC or the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, more information on vaccine effectiveness and additional vaccines become available.
In 2021, the vaccine supply is expected to increase substantially. Current models suggest that all individuals 16 years or older who do not fall within the initial priority groups should qualify for the vaccine by mid-2021.
The vaccines themselves are free to all. A small charge may be assessed to health insurance providers by the agency administering the vaccine, but there will not be any out-of-pocket cost for the vaccine.
More information will be available soon on how and where vaccines are being administered.