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Northwest Michigan health districts take new steps to increase vaccination rates

Health Department of Northwest Michigan

Public health officials in northwestern Michigan said Thursday it’s getting increasingly hard to find eligible people to vaccinate against COVID-19.

Even though Michigan expanded eligibility last week, and many health districts in the northern part of the state went even further with their expansions, the people who are most eager and able to make appointments have already received their shots, said Lisa Peacock, the health officer for the Northwestern Michigan and Benzie-Leelanau districts.

“Certainly we’ve seen a shift over the past couple of weeks,” Peacock said. “It’s harder and harder to find eligible people.”

Now, health district staff are interviewing people who do come in for shots, asking them what was difficult about the experience, and trying to eliminate those obstacles in the future.

Peacock said their interviews are indicating that for many people older than 60 who haven’t yet been vaccinated, the internet-based appointment system is difficult to access and navigate.

So they’re mailing postcards. Twenty-two thousand of them.

Peacock said the postcards will help with vaccine signup for people who aren’t internet-savvy.

Despite the increased effort needed to fill vaccine slots, Peacock said they've managed to fill every clinic.

But even as the number of people vaccinated grows, cases of COVID-19 have been increasing, too.

“We’re concerned that those could lead to a persistent surge in cases, said Dr. Josh Meyerson, the medical director for the Northwest Michigan and Benzie-Leelenau districts.

He said there aren’t yet enough people vaccinated to significantly slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

That won’t come until at least 70% of the population is immunized, he said. Right now, the state Department of Health and Human Services says about 13% of Michiganders are vaccinated.

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