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Detroit reverses course, plans to offer Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

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Detroit – The city turned down 6,200 doses from the first shipment of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine to Michigan this week, but Mayor Mike Duggan’s government said Thursday there is now a plan to administer the shots in the future .

Duggan said Detroit had no plans to offer the vaccine on Tuesday and that it would be best used in rural areas.

City spokesman John Roach said the city was allocated an additional 2,000 cans of Moderna this week, making a total of 17,000 cans, more than any scheduled appointments for the coming week.

It also comes on top of the 12,000 second-dose shots, bringing the total number of vaccines to be administered by the city health department next week to nearly 29,000, Roach said Thursday.

The city is in the process of setting up a separate Johnson & Johnson vaccination center so residents can get it. The city said it was unclear when the next round of dosing will come, but if they do, Detroiters will have that option, Roach said.

“The mayor made it clear that he intended to maximize the availability of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which we have successfully done,” he told The Detroit News. “The 29,000 Moderna / Pfizer vaccines to be administered direct by a health department over the next week are an extraordinary number.”

Roach said the city has received assurances from the state Department of Health and Human Services that Detroit’s full dispensation of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will continue and that all doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be additional.

“The mayor would have strongly opposed any attempt to reduce Detroit’s future allocation of Moderna and Pfizer by replacing J and J in whole or in part,” said Roach.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine was approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration in the past few days.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Duggan stated that Moderna and Pfizer vaccines given at Detroit vaccination sites are 95% effective for those who receive both shots and that it “makes sense” that Johnson & Johnson shots “at people in” rural areas “waiting in line for three to four hours.

Michigan health officials said they were ready to receive the largest vaccine broadcast to date this week, with nearly 500,000 doses, including 82,700 Johnson & Johnson shots.

“In Detroit we have the best vaccination infrastructure in the country. We can get you on and off quickly through the TCF Center, and we could do this twice and be fully protected,” Duggan told reporters Tuesday.

African Americans in Michigan were about twice as likely to miss their two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as white residents, according to the state.

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, director of the public health department at Michigan State University, warned Tuesday that the distribution of the new, slightly less effective vaccine would have to be handled carefully, adding that it made no sense to have a rapidly developed and approved vaccine to administer to an already reluctant community.

“We cannot underserve the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, especially when we know it has a lower effective rate,” said Furr-Holden, who also serves as director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions. “Premature rush could have unintended consequences and undermine the confidence of the people we serve.”

The single-shot vaccine was 72% effective in preventing moderate disease in US studies, a number that lags behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which were about 95% effective after two doses. However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine completely prevented hospitalizations and deaths, including in South Africa, against a more communicable variant and was 85% effective in protecting against serious illness.

However, experts say no direct comparisons between vaccines are possible because the studies were conducted at different times during the pandemic and in different countries looking at different variants and transmission rates.

To speed up vaccinations, the Detroit Department of Health will offer on-site vaccinations Tuesday at the city’s main manufacturing centers, starting with 8,000 employees at the two Jeep plants on the east side of the city.

There are no age restrictions and all manufacturing workers who live in the suburbs but work in the city can get the vaccine at the TCF center by calling (313) 230-0505.

Last week the city opened the eligibility to non-residents, offering a vaccine to anyone 55 years or older who drives an eligible Detroit citizen 60 and over to a vaccine appointment.

Detroit now provides racial vaccination data on its website, collected from individuals vaccinated by the Health Department and the TCF Center. Black Detroiters make up 82% of the shots. Another 15% were identified as white and 2.9% as other.

The city is expanding its vaccinations for seniors on Saturday by appointment from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in six churches in Detroit.

Others eligible for inclusion at the TCF Center include Detroit food service workers; K-12 employees, security guards; Caretaker and US Postal Service agent; City agency workers; Clergy and funeral home workers; Health care workers; and members of the city’s disabled community aged 18 and over.

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Dusty Kennedy