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State health department awards vaccine doses to pilot projects seeking equity

Northwest Michigan Health Services

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that it will send more than 35,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to health centers that serve communities that are vulnerable to the disease.

The health department said 22 health care providers are getting vaccine doses as part of a pilot program to bring vaccines to communities where coronavirus mortality rates are highest.

Northwest Michigan Health Services, which runs a network of clinics covering seven mostly rural counties, will get 1,000 doses over the next two weeks, said Heidi Britton, the organization's CEO.

Britton said they will set up vaccine clinics in communities with a large proportion of people who are older than 65 -- of of the state’s highest priority groups for vaccination -- but still haven’t gotten a dose.

“The whole purpose of the pilot program is to put the clinics in a space to reduce those barriers such as transportation, language barriers – we’ll have bilingual staff out there. We’ll address the needs of that community and anyone surrounding it,” Britton said.

Northwest Michigan Health Services said it will also work with the state’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to get vaccines to farmworkers.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said she wants to ensure everyone in Michigan has access to the vaccines.

“I look forward to more outreach to vulnerable communities as vaccine supplies increase,” Khaldun said. “Your ability to get a vaccine should not be impacted by whether you are in a rural or urban part of the state, are lower income, are living with a disability, are not fluent in English, or don't have access to a car, a computer or the Internet.”

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