Federal government targets Northern Michigan for vaccine distribution

Mar 5, 2021

A Northern Michigan health care provider has started receiving COVID-19 vaccines directly from the federal government.

Most vaccine doses in Michigan are distributed from the federal government to the state Department of Health and Human Services, then to hospitals and local health districts, and then, maybe, to community health centers.

Alcona Health Center is part of a federal pilot program to distribute COVID-19 vaccines directly to community health centers.
Credit Alcona Health Center

But Alcona Health Center has received about 1,600 vaccine doses directly from the federal Centers for Disease Control. The CDC chose the health center as part of a pilot program aimed at getting vaccine doses to people who might otherwise be left behind by the immunization campaign.

Initially, Alcona was the only health center in Michigan enrolled in the program, and one of only 25 in the country. Now, seven community health providers in the state, including one in Baldwin and one in Hillman, are participating.

Alcona Health Center Clinical Operations Director Ashley Goddard said at the beginning of vaccine distribution in Michigan, her clinics weren’t getting any vaccines -- even though they provide health care to people in an area spanning 18,000 square miles.

The largely rural population of the health center’s service area skews older than the rest of the state, Goddard said. Once Alcona started getting access to vaccines through the federal pilot program, they could reach out to the seniors they serve, many of whom lack easy access to the internet to sign up for an appointment or transportation to get to one, she said.

“In some of our communities, we’re the only health care provider,” said Goddard. “We provide care for a lot of underserved or vulnerable populations.”