Detroit, nonprofits to meet homebound residents where they are in next stage of COVID-19 vaccination efforts from Crain’s Detroit

June 10, 2021

With its COVID-19 vaccination rate still lagging, the city of Detroit plans to start meeting residents where they live.

The Detroit Health Department is working with the nonprofit Detroit Area Agency on Aging and Wayne Health, previously called the Wayne State University Physician Group, to give vaccinations at people’s homes, the city announced Wednesday in a news conference.

It’s expected to start this week and finish around November, targeting homebound Detroiters.

There are an estimated 40,000 city residents who are homebound based on state data, according to Ron Taylor, CEO of the Detroit Area Agency on Aging. Staff will contact those people to schedule appointments. Then one of 150 homebound vaccination teams will go to their door in uniform, with photo IDs to prove their identity, and vaccinate the homebound person as well as their household members, Detroit chief public health officer Denise Fair said Wednesday.

“It’s a big undertaking. It’s 30-45 minutes per person (to get them vaccinated) and we’re going to thousands upon thousands of homes. But I can say on behalf of Wayne State, we’re not going to stop until every person who wants to get vaccinated is vaccinated,” Phillip Levy, chief innovation officer for Wayne Health, said during the news conference.

Taking vaccine doses straight to residents is the next evolution in the city’s unfolding strategy to boost its vaccination rate — though tracking the efficacy of those various distribution methods is not possible due to a lack of accessible public data.

Of Detroit’s population, 35.8 percent have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 54.5 percent statewide, according to state figures. And the number of people who are seeking a shot is drying up.

“We are nowhere near where we want to be on that community immunity at 70 percent. So we do have a long way to go,” Fair said.

Vaccine administration in Detroit is down nearly 66 percent from April, according to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services data as of Tuesday. City residents received a peak of more than 26,600 first or second doses of the COVID-19 vaccines the week of April 5-11, compared with more than 9,000 the most recent full week available, May 31-June 6. It had been creeping down throughout May, from 18,600 the first week to nearly 15,000 the second and 14,400 the third.

Michigan residents got approximately 676,000 doses that same week in April and 155,000 the most recent week — a 77 percent decrease.

How people are getting vaccines has changed, as the city started out offering vaccines mostly through its TCF Center supersite. It then introduced community “Senior Saturday” vaccine events in early February and has expanded those. Now it’s managing vaccination sites at recreation centers and churches, as well as sending staff to pop-up events. Wednesday’s 12 vaccination locations include the Rosa Parks Transit Center downtown and grocery stores Greenfield Market, two Save-A-Lots, Parkway Foods and La Fiesta Market, according to the city’s website.

The biggest challenge in this new method, delivering vaccines to homes, is making sure they’re stored and handled properly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It varies depending on which vaccine is being used, and the method requires lots of logistics and planning, which makes it among the tougher — but necessary — ways to provide vaccines.

Also, those working with homebound people need to be trained on accessibility issues like working with those who are blind, have other sensory impairments, service animals and more, the CDC says.

The city of Detroit has announced myriad other ways it’s looking to increase its vaccination rate, too, from marketing efforts featuring vaccinated Detroiters to knocking on doors and giving people who drive someone to get vaccinated a $50 gift card.

Mayor Mike Duggan also joined a national “U.S. Mayor’s Challenge” through the month of June. The U.S. Conference of Mayors and President Joe Biden’s administration created the competition as a way to get city leaders across the country to implement new strategies to boost their numbers.

However, tracking how well the city’s various neighborhood sites and events are working is not easy. Crain’s put in multiple requests for data about TCF Center and community vaccinations, but they were not fulfilled.

The state does track some categories for individual localities by residency: For example, the mass vaccination site at Ford Field in Detroit sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Administration administered a total of 18,855 doses to Detroit residents. Pharmacies, 52,366 doses to Detroiters. Various medical facilities including hospitals, family practices, urgent cares, health centers and pediatric centers have given out more than 53,000 doses. But pop-up events? Churches? The TCF Center drive-through and walk-ins? None of that information is readily accessible.

God’s Path Community Services, a small clinic inside Lemay Church of Christ on Detroit’s east side, has already been driving to clients’ homes to vaccinate them, founder Lorie Turner told Crain’s last week.

“I’ve been going to houses to vaccinate people and educating them,” Turner said.

Dr. Felix Valbuena, CEO of the Community Health and Social Services Center in southwest Detroit, said CHASS is, like the city at large, seeing a decrease in the number of people seeking out doses. The community-based provider that gets most of its vaccine doses from the federal government is ordering around 400 doses a week now, down from 600 a week in early May.

“All of it is not necessarily, ‘There’s no way, shape or form I’m taking this vaccine,'” Valbuena said. “There’s still some unanswered questions, believe it or not.”

CHASS’s mission is to provide affordable care in an underserved area. Some of its target audience is still not aware of how widely available the vaccine is, or may be hearing more misinformation than facts, Valbuena said.

“What I’ve asked here at the center (is) we need to continue to bombard every single media venue we have,” he said. “Is it the Spanish radio stations, newspapers, is it public television, and all the social media to let people know the vaccine is here, the vaccine is free …”

Read, “Detroit, nonprofits to meet homebound residents where they are in next stage of COVID-19 vaccination efforts” from Crain’s Detroit.

Learn more about the Wayne Health Mobile Unit.

Detroit, nonprofits to meet homebound residents where they are in next stage of COVID-19 vaccination efforts from Crain’s Detroit
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