Detroit's Ford Field to become mass COVID-19 vaccine clinic
As many as 6,000 people will be able to get COVID-19 vaccines every day starting March 24 at Ford Field, the Detroit Lions' domed stadium in downtown Detroit, which will become a federally run mass vaccination clinic, Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a Friday news briefing.
“Today, in fact, I'm pleased to announce the addition of a new FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) supported site in Detroit," Zients said. "This site located at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, has the ability to administer 6,000 shots per day. And last night, President Biden announced the deployment of more than 4,000 active-duty troops to support vaccination efforts, bringing the total troop deployment to over 6,000."
Ford Field will be one of nearly 20 high-volume, federally run sites across the nation that will aim to deliver 70,000 shots a week in some of America's most disadvantaged neighborhoods, White House officials said.
The site will be operated as part of a state-federal partnership with the capacity to administer 5,000 shots per day on-site and an additional 1,000 per day through a mobile vaccine clinic.
Ford Field will get an allocation of 6,000 vaccines per day for eight weeks to help meet the state's goal of vaccinating 70% of adult Michiganders by the end of the year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement issued Friday.
“The safe and effective vaccine is the best way to protect Michiganders and their families, and it is essential to getting our country back to normal so that we can all hug our loved ones, get back to work, and send our kids to school safely,” Whitmer said.
“I want to thank President Biden and FEMA for the opportunity to build one of the nation’s first community vaccination sites to service the entire southeast Michigan region. ... Ramping up vaccine distribution will also help our economy recover faster and help save our small businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Let’s get to work, and let’s get it done.”
Since December, more than 3.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been shipped to Michigan, and more than 2.8 million of them have been injected into the arms of Michigan residents, according to state data.
The Ford Field clinic will operate 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. each day and will be managed by the state, with support from FEMA, Wayne County, the city of Detroit, Ford Field, Meijer, Henry Ford Health System and the Lions.
Dr. Steven Rockoff, Henry Ford's service chief of emergency medicine, will be the medical director of the site, and said the Detroit-based health system will "provide on-site expertise and oversight for the vaccine administrations and medical care, in addition to supporting clinic operation.
"We are committed to doing our part in this massive community outreach effort that will have tremendous impact across our region.”
First doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be offered at Ford Field for the first three weeks. Those vaccinated within that time frame will be guaranteed a second dose during the fourth, fifth and sixth weeks of operation.
The type of vaccine to be supplied during the last two weeks of the site has not yet been determined, according to the release from Whitmer’s office.
Vaccines will be offered at no cost and insurance is not required, nor will it be requested at the vaccination site. Any Michigan resident currently eligible to receive the vaccine under the state health department prioritization guidance will be able to register for an appointment at Ford Field.
Free parking will be available, and the state is working to provide free ride-share options for people who ask for transportation assistance during the registration process.
Reservations aren't yet available, the governor's office said; instructions about how to book an appointment will be announced in the coming days.
FEMA has provided $27.5 million and deployed more than 25 federal personnel to Michigan to support vaccination operations statewide, federal officials said.
Ford Field was chosen because it is well known to people in the region, is accessible for people with disabilities, can accommodate 10,000 people at one time, has convenient access to parking and public transportation as well as existing security and crowd-control infrastructure, the White House COVID-19 Response Team said.
FEMA officials toured Ford Field last month with leaders from the city of Detroit and Wayne County, a source who was there told the Free Press.
During a briefing March 5, Andy Slavitt, the White House's senior adviser for COVID-19 response, said 18 FEMA-supported community vaccination sites in seven states already are operational or are being established in such places as Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Philadelphia and four sites in Florida.
Other newer sites — the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the home of the Atlanta Falcons football team, and the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University in Cleveland — have the capacity to deliver 6,000 shots per day each, Slavitt previously said. Both mass vaccine clinics are in neighborhoods "hard hit by the pandemic and are well known" in the community.
Public health officials and emergency response planners mapped communities nationally that would most need support in the mass vaccination effort using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index. The SVI considers such factors as socioeconomic status, household composition, minority status, languages, housing type and transportation.
COVID-19 hit southeast Michigan hard, especially the communities of color in the metro Detroit area. Preexisting health conditions, obesity, and lack of access to health care have exacerbated the situation among the African American communities in Michigan. Wayne County, home to the city of Detroit, leads the state in the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases.
“After a year of tremendous challenges and heartache, the new vaccine site at Ford Field will be a beacon of hope in a community that was hit hard by the devastating impacts of this deadly virus,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist in a statement.
“When we saw this virus targeting Black and brown communities, Michigan got to work setting up one of the nation’s first task forces to help reduce the staggering, disproportionate rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths in communities of color. As we continue to expand our state’s vaccine program, we must build upon the work that we’ve done in this space to ensure equitable access to this safe and effective vaccine. We can honor the legacies of the those we’ve lost to this virus by ensuring that we all get the vaccine when it is our turn.”
Contact Christina Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.
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