‘We Are Finally Fighting Back:’ COVID-19 Vaccine Given to Mayor Mike Duggan, Other Leaders

Mayor Mike Duggan and other leaders said that they are paving the way as positive influences by taking the COVID-19 vaccine, distributed by Pfizer, this afternoon.


“We are finally fighting back,” Duggan said of the coronavirus that has greatly impacted the community during a press conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.


Duggan, Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair, and Henry Ford Health System President & CEO Wright Lassiter received their COVID vaccine shot.


Duggan discussed during the nearly hour-long press conference who is first in the COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan. The plan includes vaccinations for front line health department staff, fire/EMS personnel, home health workers, nursing homes & assisted living facilities. Also, the city received its first doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday. 


Duggan said that on Wednesday the first city employees will be getting the vaccine including 30 employees at the city’s Health Department and 1200 medical first responders and emergency medical technicians that work for the Detroit Fire Department.


“They will be in the first phase that is this coming this week,” Duggan said adding that, next week, the Health Department will offer vaccines to the city’s 450 home healthcare workers who go into homes for those who are not able to leave.

Staff from HFHS will have its mobile unit on site at DFD’s regional training facility to vaccinate interested personnel between Wednesday and the first week of January.  Each of the city’s 47 fire companies are now being scheduled and as of today, more than 400 personnel have expressed interest in taking the vaccine.

The 2,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine the city received on Monday, will begin deploying this Wednesday, under this initial timeline:

  • December 23: Health Department Vaccination Team
    • 30 staff
  • December 28-30: Home Health Agencies
    • 450 staff
  • January 4-8: Nursing Home(s) not registered with CVS/Walgreens
    • 166 staff and residents
  • January 8-February 1: Other long term care facilities an senior buildings

Duggan said that he’s had “many, many conversations” with city employees — some who have different opinions about what they want to be injected in their arms.

“While I believe this is the right thing to do, we are not going to mandate that you do it — it’s going to be your choice,” Duggan said. “You’re not going to be disciplined or punished for that choice … we are going to lead by a positive example.”

Duggan added that for many people, receiving the vaccine has been a big topic of conversation for many, and for the Black community, that conversation hits home differently. He brought up the Tuskegee experiments where Black men were experimented on to see how untreated syphilis reacts in the body. 

“We can’t have the conversation about whether to take the vaccine from the federal government without acknowledging the racism,” Duggan said, adding that the experiment was conducted by the US Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It wasn’t ancient history the Tuskegee experiments ran until the 1970s … it wasn’t until 1977 that a president finally acknowledged it and spoke out … this is something very much in the consciousness of many Detroiters.”


Duggan added that there is a “higher level of distrust” and it is important for him to take action by showing others that the vaccine is safe and effective and also because COVID-19 is “not going to go away by itself.”


Lassiter said that the “complex journey” of COVID-19 has been a road everyone has taken. And as a Black man from Tuskegee, he understands the concerns of the Black community — especially as a medical professional. 


“We’re committed to building trust in our communities … through transparency and part of that involves events like this event that brings leaders together with a shared message about safety and protecting those at high risk … and most vulnerable to the severe effects of COVID-19,”: Lassiter said.


Lassiter said that on Dec. 19 the Henry Ford Health System received the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine at all five of the system’s hospitals throughout southeastern Michigan. 


“[We] began administering the first doses within hours of receipt of that,” he said, adding that over 4,000 health system members were vaccinated. I feel very confident in both the safety and efficacy of this vaccine.


DMC CEO Dr. Audrey Gregory, who received her vaccine last week, said that the decision for her to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine [and promote it] stems from being a Black woman, nurse, mom, and wife.


“When I make those decisions … I think it is important as leaders and [to] lead by example,” she said adding that was her experience Friday. “In terms of the experience, it was no different than getting my flu shot.”


Four days in Gregory said that she had some soreness in her arm but she’s much better.


“The vaccine is one more tool in our toolkit,”

Duggan said that in the coming months he does expect to be running a huge vaccination operation out of the TCF parking structure.


“Right now we need to get our first responders to do it,” Duggan said. “We need the first responders to trust the decision enough to know that they, their family and city will be better off. We’re going to show you that we believe it.” 


View the video here: City of Detroit Government Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/CityOfDetroit.


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