By Carol Stiffler
Almost exactly one year after COVID-19 was discovered in Michigan, the COVID vaccine has been made available to any person ages 16+ in the Luce, Mackinac, Alger, or Schoolcraft counties.
The LMAS district, and the U.P. at large, are ahead of the state of Michigan, which is currently vaccinating anyone ages 50 and up, and those 16 and older who have medical conditions. Michigan plans to allow all residents ages 16 and up to receive the vaccine beginning April 5. Those with medical conditions will be given priority.
LMAS spokesperson Kerry Ott said the change in availability in our district has led to a flurry of phone calls from people who live outside the district and are hoping to get vaccinated here. But the vaccines shipped to LMAS counties are for LMAS residents.
Within the Luce, Mackinac, Alger, and Schoolcraft counties, Ott said the response has been slower than the health department would like.
“We knew when we got to the younger age groups there would be more vaccine hesitancy,” Ott said.
The virus is generally understood to have a lesser impact on children and young adults. But a target of 70-90 percent of adults will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity against the virus, Ott said.
“We are striving for that,” she said. “And looking at our numbers, we are almost halfway.”
The LMAS health department secured partnerships with local hospitals and pharmacies to administer vaccines from the moment they were available in Michigan, she said, which has helped the department achieve a higher vaccine percentage than lower Michigan.
But there are some who still don’t trust the vaccine for various reasons, including a new suspicion that discredits the FDA’s approval of the vaccines. A normal vaccine is approved after years of study, Ott said.
“But we don’t have years to wait,” Ott said.
The Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are based on decades of study and rigorous testing, and were approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization. But the FDA’s emergency use authorization only comes after thorough and in-depth research and following careful protocol.
“It’s a tough process,” Ott said. “I’m really impressed that Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson were able to get through. They were so diligent.”
With the announcement that the LMAS district is opening up vaccinations to everyone ages 16 and up, the department issued this statement:
Any residents in Luce, Mackinac, Alger, and Schoolcraft Counties, age 16 and older can now be added starting today, March 12, 2021 to waitlists for the COVID vaccine. Those with medical conditions will be prioritized. Appointments will begin to be scheduled during the week of March 15, 2021. All previous priority groups can still be scheduled as well.
To get on a waitlist or signup for an appointment time, please visit our website at LMASDHD.org, and click on the appropriate waitlist button.
For Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital, you can call 906-341-3775.
If you or a family member needs assistance scheduling or getting on a waitlist in any of our counties, please call our offices Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Alger (906) 387-2297; Luce (906) 293-5107; or Mackinac (906) 643-1100. You may also reach us through our Facebook page via Messenger at Facebook.com/LMASDHD.
We appreciate the opportunity to open up COVID vaccinations to more of our district residents. However, we do not yet have a clear picture of whether those vaccinated can spread COVID-19 to others, so even when you are fully vaccinated, you need to continue to properly wear a cloth face covering (fully covering your mouth and nose), stay home when you don’t feel well, get tested, maintain distance, wash your hands, and limit your gatherings to no more than 15 people from three households. Also, if LMAS contacts you, and instructs you to isolate or quarantine, please follow those instructions.
We must all continue to do these small things to take care of each other. The vaccine will only help us move past all of this is if we continue to follow all of the protocols to protect each other.