In the latest MSU COVID-19 employee town hall, a panel of experts including MSU’s Dr. Norman Beauchamp, executive vice president for health sciences, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail, M.P.A. and Sparrow Hospital Medical Chief of Staff-Elect Dr. LaKeeya Tucker discussed the importance of vaccination, vaccine brands and local distribution efforts.
Beauchamp opened the discussion by stressing the importance of making informed decisions when it comes to the health of our community.
“COVID-19 remains a threat. Michigan is expanding access to vaccines to help end the pandemic,” he said. “All three of the major brands (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) have been proven to be highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and death in clinical trials."
“This is what we’ve been waiting for. Vaccines are how we save lives. We expect a large majority of faculty, staff and students to be vaccinated by the fall. We hope returning to campus will be much more like it was pre-COVID, with relaxed restrictions.”
Beauchamp went on to explain how the university, as part of its emergency preparedness plan, has systems and structures in place to be a vaccination center for public health emergencies such as this, with the capacity to vaccinate up to 2,000 individuals per day.
MSU has made requests of the state and is currently awaiting shipment of vaccines to administer to the Spartan community. MSU will follow the same priority schedule as the State of Michigan's guidelines to avoid confusion.
As the town hall continued, Vail detailed vaccine distribution efforts across Ingham County, the largest of which is taking place at MSU’s Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education.
“We’re currently vaccinating around 1,500 individuals a day at the pavilion, but are pushing to get it closer to 2,000 per day,” Vail explained. “We also have community-based pop-up clinics all over the county, a weekend drive-thru clinic at the fairgrounds and a clinic at the Dwight Rich School of the Arts.”
According to Vail, Pfizer is the primary vaccine brand that Ingham County has received to date.
“Right now, vaccines are scarce, and we don’t have a reliable amount in Michigan,” she added. “We can’t currently accommodate requests for specific brands because we can only work with what we have.”
Vail said the county is working to strike a balance between being efficient and equitable in distributing the vaccines. She stressed the need of breaking down barriers to vaccination and prioritizing those underserved communities including people of color, those in rural areas, the homeless and county inmates.
Tucker shined a light on some myths about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines.
She stated that all three brands have participated in large clinical trials with diverse individuals and are safe and effective even for those who are pregnant or lactating. Tucker also noted that there is no evidence that the vaccine will cause infertility or a severe allergic reaction.
“Sparrow has been using all of the vaccines that are available to us,” she explained. “The best vaccine you can get is the one you are offered when it’s your time, so please take it.”
All three panelists underscored the importance of getting vaccinated and registering with multiple distributors, including Meijer, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, county health departments and local health care providers.
After April 5, all individuals aged 16 and up in the State of Michigan are eligible to receive a vaccine.
Moderator Shawn Turner, professor of strategic communication in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, asked several questions submitted by faculty and staff throughout the town hall, one of which was asked of Tucker: “Can you explain why children aged 12-15 are not able to receive the vaccine at this time?”
“We don’t have data from clinical trials for the 12-15 age group at this time,” Tucker explained. “It’s also important to note that individuals aged 16 and 17 are only eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, due to a lack of data on the other two brands.”
Vail reminded the audience that due to the urgency of getting the vaccine out to the public, trials in that age group were not performed, but she expects this may change as we learn more about the longevity of the vaccine.
Turner also asked Tucker to address the notion that some may feel they should skip their second dose of the vaccine to ensure someone else can receive it.
“You will have some protection from the first dose, but it won’t be as effective as having both doses,” Tucker said. “We highly recommend you receive both. That is the best way to protect yourself and your community. You will be getting the same brand for both doses, so that is not a concern.”
Sparrow is operating a drive-thru clinic site at the former Sears Auto Center in Frandor and is currently vaccinating around 1,000 individuals per day. There are plans in motion to open a large vaccine clinic inside the Sears retail space as well.
Those who live or work in Ingham County can register to receive the vaccine here. You will be notified once you are eligible and an appointment becomes available. For those outside Ingham County, visit the state of Michigan’s website to find a site near you.
Sign up to schedule your COVID-19 vaccine from Sparrow at sparrow.org/vaccine.