(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)

       Shiawassee County Health Director Larry Johnson offered an update on COVID-19 vaccine distribution to the Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday, March 9 in the Corunna Surbeck Building. The committee represents one arm of the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners. Shown listening to Johnson’s report were Dr. Brian Boggs, county coordinator, and Commissioner Marlene Webster (R-Dist. 1).

   Ahead of Johnson’s report, Durand Mayor Ken McDonough offered his gratitude to Johnson and the health department for assisting Durand with COVID-19 vaccinations. McDonough relayed concerns regarding Durand and adjoining townships where senior residents were hesitant to travel to Owosso for vaccinations, preferring being vaccinated nearer to their homes.

   “Sometimes we get forgot over there,” shared McDonough. “So I do appreciate it,” he said, thanking the health department and the board of commissioners.

   “As the mayor said, we are extending the reach of the vaccines,” Johnson said. “You’ve probably heard it was starting off slow, with the amount of vaccine that was coming into the county. In recent weeks, it has started to pick up in terms of the amount of doses that are coming in, mainly to the health department. We are the main hub for vaccines coming into our county.”

    Johnson explained that earlier in the process, Memorial Healthcare had received sufficient doses for staff, but after the amount of vaccine trickled off.

  “It’s a really complicated thing to explain,” he said. “It has to do with the state Social Vulnerability Index, which was developed by MDHHS and unfortunately, Shiawassee County didn’t rank very high on that index.”

   Social vulnerability and COVID-19 is determined by a state index that takes in data regarding the socioeconomic status, family composition and disability, minority status and language minority, and housing type and transportation in a particular region. Social vulnerability is determined though 15 indicators of vulnerability as defined under the above categories. Major indicators such as poverty, lack of transportation, unemployment, age, single-parent households and other factors determine vaccine distribution.

    Johnson offered that as of Monday, March 8, the county has received 7,900 doses of first and second doses of the vaccine, sharing that 2,300 doses had been received this week. The vaccine received this week included Moderna and the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Currently, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is earmarked only for 65-and-older because of potential travel constraints for that group.

   Johnson also listed health department partners. Partners currently include Meijer Pharmacy, Kroger Pharmacy, Memorial Healthcare, Central Pharmacy and Perry Fire and Rescue. Perry Fire and Rescue is helping the county with homebound individuals. Other groups helping the county in the vaccine effort are Shiawassee RESD, Owosso Public Schools, the Knights of Columbus, Corunna EMS, Owosso EMS, MSU Extension, Shiawassee Health and Wellness, Catholic Charities and the Council on Aging. Johnson was not positive the list was complete, but offered his gratitude to all groups who had been working to help the health department.

    “This week alone, the health department is running four clinics by ourselves, and you know, we are a staff of about 35 people, and we’ve got about 50 to 55,000 people we’ve got to get to in this county,” he said. “Right now, our overall numbers, that includes everything, 12,800 vaccines have been distributed in Shiawassee County with 15,900 doses administered.” The slight discrepancy has to do with some residents being vaccinated out-of-area and also because there are often extra doses per vial. “We are squeezing every drop of vaccine out of every vial,” he said. “So a Moderna vial has 10 doses, but often time we can squeeze 11 doses out of that. No doses have gone to waste in Shiawassee County.”

   Breaking the numbers down further, about 10,500 individuals have received their first dose, with 5,300 having received both doses, as of last Monday.

   Clinics this week are for 65-and-older – first and second dose. Individuals 50-and-older with underlying conditions – first dose. Childcare staff are eligible for the second dose. School staff are completed and the majority of the 4,000 seniors of the calling list have now been reached. The call list was Johnson’s brainchild, realizing that many individuals in the 65-and-older group were less likely to be responsive to more modern methods of technology, especially those without internet. Johnson opted for the “very labor intensive” call list to assist seniors as quickly as possible. The list will not transition to an online registry to assist younger groups, though people are still welcome to call.

   “The partners that we have distributed vaccine to, have to be approved by the state to be able to administer the vaccine, and they have to be from our list. So we want to be clear, we are staying within the guidelines,” Johnson explained.

   According to Johnson, Washington has shared that everyone should be eligible for the vaccine by June 1. It is his hope that distribution “will continue to ramp up” to help in meeting that deadline.

   “Every shot in an arm, is a life saved,” he said, a statement he has offered to his staff. “They should be proud of the work they are doing for Shiawassee County and the health department.”

   Commissioner John Plowman (R-Dist. 7) said he had received his second dose at Owosso High School and is hoping to continue to see the upswing in delivery.

Health Director Offers Vaccine Distribution Update was last modified: March 17th, 2021 by Karen Elford