As vaccine demand starts to slip in Michigan, cities move toward community-run clinics

Ford Field is about halfway through its eight-week clinic, having administered about 150,000 doses in that time.

But there's a new problem on the horizon for getting enough of the state's residents protected. Demand is starting to slip.

That was evident at Detroit mass vaccine site when there was a 2,000 dose slump at Ford Field last week.

"With the Johnson and Johnson news - the slip in demand could have been a blip in reacting to that news," said Kerry Ebersole-Singh, who promotes vaccine awareness with the Protect Michigan commission. "Or it could've been folks have actually gotten doses in other locations and didn't report back to decline their appointment or cancel their appointment."

It could also mean that supply is outstripping demand. Michigan has fully vaccinated about a third of the state. It wants to get up to 70% before the year's end as an implicit benchmark for herd immunity.

But in recent days, the number of doses being administered has started falling. More communities are starting to see more vaccines than appointments. Ebersole-Singh wasn't expecting the shift in demand to happen so soon.

"We thought this point would be later in May, but it's here now."

Vaccine stockpiles growing

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said that growing stockpiles of vaccines are popping up around the country. Counteracting the decline will require a shift in who is administering the shots and where you can get them.

"I do think you are going to see this shift from government-run to community-run. And I think this is a model for the future," he said.

The mayor was at the Sheffield Center on Thursday where that model had been put into practice.

The Detroit Association of Black Organizations had put on the clinic, where they serviced hundreds of patients.

"What Rev. (Horace) Sheffield has done here, is taken trust in the institution of this community and reach out to them in a way the government could not do," he said.

Sheffield says they have been using social media and email systems to reach out to the community, going beyond where government resources at mass vaccine sites can reach.

Increasing incentives and decreasing skepticism

Until now, getting a vaccine has been a personal decision. The onus has been on the resident to register through one of the many pharmacies or hospitals and then make the trip to get the shot. 

It's as much a question of access as it is hesitancy in Detroit, where vaccine coverage is particularly low. That's why the Johnson & Johnson delay proved a detrimental disruption to the city, which was hoping to inoculate its citizens during Neighborhood week with just one shot.

The J&J dose was also helpful for rural communities elsewhere in the state, which may be less enthused about getting the shot but would receive one if the shot was brought to them.

Pfizer and Moderna are still on the market, but the cold storage requirements for Pfizer's variant mean transporting and holding onto the shots isn't as feasible outside of industrial hospitals.

Ebersole-Singh said cities and local governments will need to meet people where they're at.

Incentives like the $500 being offered by Detroit Public Schools to get the shot are also being considered. Even dispensaries are promoting vaccines as part of a "joints for jabs" campaign.