Whitmer to Michiganders: Get your COVID booster shot

By: - November 18, 2021 11:43 am

Tanya Lattin, commander at the Corrales Fire Department, gives a resident his first dose of the vaccine in August 2021. | Shelby Kleinhans for Source NM

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations skyrocket in the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is urging eligible Michiganders to get their booster shots once federal health officials approve them for all adults in the United States. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is slated this week to expand access to the booster shots for all adults who are 18 and older and at least six months out from being fully vaccinated. Currently, COVID boosters are available to Michigan residents who are 65 and older, as well as individuals who are 18 to 64 and have underlying health conditions or work in high-risk jobs.

“As we continue facing COVID, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated, and if you’re eligible, get your booster shot,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a Wednesday press release. 

Health experts emphasize that the original vaccine shots continue to be effective, but the booster shots provide a needed layer of security in the face of the fast-spreading Delta variant, concerns over waning immunity and a surge of COVID cases and hospitalizations in Michigan over the past two weeks.

States forge ahead with COVID-19 booster shots for all adults

The original vaccines were produced before the Delta variant became the dominant strain of COVID in the United States; the fast-spreading variant now makes up nearly 100% of COVID cases in Michigan. Because of that, health experts said the vaccine isn’t as effective now as it was before Delta took over. According to a recent study, Moderna’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was 89% effective in March but just 58% effective by the end of September. Pfizer’s effectiveness dropped from 87% to 45% in that same time period. Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine had the greatest decline, falling from 86% to 13%. 

To address this, health experts said it’s important for fully vaccinated individuals to get the booster shot.

“Whenever it’s your time, get your booster,” said Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency physician in West Michigan and the executive director of Committee to Protect Health Care.

About 1.1 million COVID booster shots have been given in the state, and 21% of fully vaccinated Michiganders have gotten their booster, according to state and federal  health officials. This week, the state announced that 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and older have gotten at least one shot of a COVID vaccine. Just over 54% of eligible Michiganders are fully vaccinated, according to state data. 

Whitmer’s push for residents to get the booster comes as Michigan is reporting the highest number of COVID cases in the country, the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported Tuesday. Cases among Michigan children under the age of 12 have also soared, jumping 26% since last week, state health officials said. 

COVID death rates have fallen slightly over the past week, but the percentage of inpatient beds occupied by COVID patients has increased for the 17th week in a row and was up 11.6% over last week, DHHS reported.

The increase in cases and hospitalizations are overwhelmingly among unvaccinated individuals, health officials said. Davidson, for example, said 100% of the COVID patients he has treated in the past week have been unvaccinated. Those who are vaccinated and hospitalized for COVID-19 tend to be older, have underlying health conditions and haven’t gotten their booster, Davidson said.

“Michigan is still facing COVID-19, and we have to work together to reduce cases and keep people out of the hospital,” Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive, said in Wednesday’s press release.

“We are concerned about rising cases and hospitalizations and have to keep working together to administer more vaccines and boosters at a rapid pace,” Bagdasarian said. “After nearly two years of facing COVID-19, we have more tools to keep people safe and help those in the hospital recover, but the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated and get your booster.”

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Anna Gustafson
Anna Gustafson

Anna Gustafson is the assistant editor at Michigan Advance, where her beats include economic justice, health care and immigration. Previously the founder of the Muskegon Times and the editor at Rapid Growth Media in Grand Rapids, Anna has worked as an editor and reporter for news outlets across the country. She began her journalism career reporting on state politics in Wisconsin and has gone on to cover government, racial justice and immigration reform in New York City, education in Connecticut, the environment in Wyoming, and more. Previously, Anna lived in Argentina and Morocco, and, when she’s not working, she’s often trying to perfect the empanada and couscous recipes she fell in love with in these countries. You’ll likely also find her working on her century-old home in downtown Lansing, writing that ever-elusive novel and hiking throughout Michigan.

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