Detroit expands vaccine eligibility to residents 16+, those that work in city

Any Detroit resident age 16 and older can now schedule a vaccine, city officials announced Monday.

The latest expansion of eligibility is the final stage of a mass vaccine campaign to protect the city's residents from COVID-19. It was announced a week before the rest of the state plans to open access up to all of its citizens.

Any person who works on a job site in the city will also be eligible to schedule a vaccine at the TCF Center. The city will also begin offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Northwest Activities Center beginning next weekend.

Mayor Mike Duggan announced the update during a Monday press conference.

Duggan said the city expanded access earlier than it had planned because of the spiking number of infections spotted in younger people.

Vaccination rates in Detroit

Vaccine coverage has reached almost a third of the state, according to health department data last week. That includes more than 2.5 million residents. However, Detroit is lagging behind that pace.

So far, only 17.6% of the city has gotten at least one shot.

The city's largely Black population is up against more barriers for getting access to doses, like transportation and communication. There is also mistrust among minority communities when it comes to vaccines. 

The city has tried to combat those barriers by scheduling vaccine appointments at churches over the weekends. It's also now hosting the country's first mass vaccine center at Ford Field.

Eligibility in Michigan

Currently, people working in most essential occupations like education, health care, law enforcement, and public transportation are eligible for scheduling a vaccine. 

Outside of Detroit, those 50 and older or those 16 and older with health conditions can also schedule a vaccine. That's about to change next week when the state expands access to anyone over the age of 16. 

Michigan announced plans for an April 5 expansion the same day it released information about Ford Field. Michigan health officials have said they want to vaccinate 70% of the state by the end of the year.

RELATED: Excitement, relief as first COVID-19 vaccines at Ford Field administered

Preliminary information from Ford Field found that about 13,100 people had gotten a vaccine through the first three days. About 72% of those that got the shot were white, while 13.8% were Black or African American. Another 4.9% were Asian and 4.7% were Latinx.

Climbing infections

Warning lights are flashing for public health experts that seeing an exponential increase in new cases. "Don't tune us out," said Denise Fair, the city's public health officer. 

Another vaccine expansion in the city arrives as it's experiencing a sharp increase in new infections. The seven-day average for new infections has climbed from about 3% on March 9 to more than 10.3% at the end of last week. The rate of hospitalizations in Detroit has also climbed 164% in the last two weeks.

In Detroit, Duggan said that hospitalizations of younger people prompted the city to push up its deadline for expanding vaccine access.

"It is now the younger people that are being infected, the younger people that are being hospitalized and we have got to start to get them vaccinated," he said Monday.

Duggan partly attributed the increase to the UK variant that is more contagious. 

The stark increase is part of a larger trend in Michigan which is seeing its largest increase in new infections in the country. There's a lot of reasons for why that is, like the presence of a new variant and the reopening of classrooms - however, even health experts can't fully explain what's going on.

Michigan is among several states that loosened restrictions on businesses and schools after it successfully stamped out its October surge. But since then, it's numbers have climbed back up rapidly.

RELATED: Even as Michigan sees virus surge, Whitmer says restrictions unlikely

Some see Michigan's new data as a harbinger for things to come in other states. However, the governor hasn't indicated plans to put restrictions back in place.

That's as Michigan races to vaccinate as many as it can before hospitalizations also respond to the infections as well. 

Detroit offering J&J vaccine

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be offered at the Northwest Activities Center beginning Saturday. 

Located at 18100 Meyers, it will be a community event that starts at 9 a.m. and goes to 1 p.m., on April 3.

The vaccine will be available to all Detroit residents age 16 and up or anyone that works in the city.

Anyone eligible can contact the city at 313-230-0505 to schedule an appointment. The city's first allocation of the J&J vaccine will arrive later this week.

The city received 3,300 this week and is expected to get more in the following week.