Michiganders age 50 and older with preexisting conditions can get vaccine March 8

Michigan will be expanding vaccine access to residents ages 50 and older who have pre-existing conditions next week.

A healthcare worker holds vials containing doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus as South Africa proceeds with its inoculation campaign at the Klerksdorp Hospital on February 18, 2021. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / A

Supplies for available vaccines are expected to ramp up in the coming months as more treatments are approved and distribution increases from Pfizer and Moderna.

The vaccine eligibility expansion will begin March 8, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer confirmed during a media event Wednesday morning. It also includes family members and guardians who care for children with special health care needs.

"MDHHS will be putting out guidance today that starting March 8, we will be able to include people who are 50 and up who have some sort of medical vulnerability or pre-existing condition," said Whitmer.

The increase in eligibility is in response to an announcement that enough vaccines will be available to 300 million Americans by the end of May.

The news arrives after a federal advisory board under the FDA authorized the emergency use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a one-shot treatment that is expected to relieve some pressure on states clamoring for available doses. It's 85% effective at preventing severe forms of the disease. 

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Currently, essential workers like those in the health care industry, residents over the age of 65, teachers and other school staff are eligible to get a vaccine through the state.

Those requirements are based on the state's expected availability mixed with groups considered a priority to getting inoculated first. Whitmer said two weeks after March 8, eligibility will expand to every Michigander over the age of 50, regardless of medical history.

Those who will be eligible on Monday should do the following:

  • Check the website of the local health department or hospital to find out their process or for registration forms; or 
  • Check additional vaccination sites, such as local pharmacies like Meijer, Rite Aid or Cardinal Health (U.P. residents); or 
  • Residents who don’t have access to the internet or who need assistance navigating the vaccine scheduling process can call the COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 (press 1), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or can call 2-1-1.   The state is also appropriating vaccine supplies based on the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index.

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In February, leaders from biomedical companies manufacturing the vaccines said that about 4 million more doses would be available in Michigan by April. Last night, President Joe Biden moved up the timeline for every American to have access to a vaccine by the end of May.

So far, the state has distributed almost 3 million vaccine doses, of which 2.3 million have been administered.