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Published in Health Care
 Dr. Joneigh Khaldun Dr. Joneigh Khaldun COURTESY PHOTO

State officials detail more COVID-19 vaccine plans; major insurers to cover costs

BY Thursday, December 10, 2020 03:08pm

LANSING — State officials expect Michigan to receive nearly 260,000 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., based on federal estimates.

The first shipments, which could come as early as next week, include more than 84,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 173,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said at a press conference Thursday.

She added that estimates on future “amount and timing of shipments could still change,” based on the federal government’s distribution plan and the manufacturing process.

Khaldun and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is actively developing a vaccine distribution plan in Michigan, which will involve complex cold-storage sites at hospitals — particularly for the Pfizer vaccine — and prioritizing doses for the most vulnerable populations and frontline workers.

“It’s going to take time until we get this vaccine distributed to the general public,” Whitmer said, which officials hope to do by spring 2021.

Both Pfizer — which is partnering with German firm BioNTech SE — and Moderna have submitted requests for emergency use authorization to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to be approved. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved by authorities in the United Kingdom and Canada within the past week.

The Detroit Free Press reported today that Pfizer’s 84,825 doses slated for Michigan could appear “within hours” of the FDA’s approval as the company plans to initially distribute 6.4 million doses across the U.S.

Vaccine distribution is broadly seen as a way out of the pandemic and a light at the end of the tunnel, though uncertainties remain about how quickly it will reach the general population, the public’s willingness to take it, and how employers should approach its use among workers.

Khaldun told Crain’s Detroit Business this week that the state is not intending to have a workplace vaccine mandate.

Meanwhile, Whitmer signed an executive order today creating the Protect Michigan Commission, an at least 50-member panel to “provide public leadership to elevate and reinforce the importance of an approved COVID-19 vaccine” and identify barriers that may hinder public acceptance of the vaccine. 

The commission is chaired by Khaldun, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Small Business Association of Michigan President and former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Michigan State University C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Detroit Pistons’ Blake Griffin, SER Metro Detroit CEO Eva Dewaelsche, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Health Administrator Soumit Pendharkar, Spectrum Health President and CEO Tina Freese-Decker, and Michigan Nurses Association President Jamie Brown.

Also on Thursday, Priority Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network announced they will offer $0 cost share coverage for the vaccine. 

“The availability of FDA-authorized vaccines for COVID-19 is a critical phase in our shared effort to defeat the virus, improve the health of our communities and resume our pre-pandemic routines,” BCBSM President and CEO Daniel Loepp said in a statement. “Blue Cross wants to ensure that the copay doesn’t stand in the way of our members having ready access to vaccinations when the time comes.”

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