Op Ed: AARP Encourages COVID-19 Vaccinations

By Paula D. Cunningham, State Director, AARP Michigan

Michiganders began receiving their inoculations several weeks ago after two vaccines were made available. AARP Michigan is pleased that our state’s leaders followed the science and prioritized older adults. While we understand the frustration over getting vaccination appointments, our leaders have been transparent and responsive about where and how vaccines are being given.

Nationally, Americans over the age of 50 account for nearly 95% of all COVID deaths. Here in Michigan, more than 15,000 people have died, with older victims and their families hit hard by the virus – about 90% of deaths are among people age 60 and older.

The situation in nursing homes is particularly dire. Residents and staff of nursing homes account for nearly 40% of all COVID deaths, though they are less than 1% of the population. Tragically, the latest release of AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard shows that the crisis in these facilities in Michigan continues, despite incremental improvements in the number of deaths and recent reductions in new infections. Numbers of cases and deaths remain well above where they were in summer and early fall. We need to ensure residents and staff of long-term care facilities continue to receive vaccinations as soon as possible to prevent further loss of life.

And then there are our hospitals, which are under tremendous strain. According to the CDC, people ages 50 to 64 with COVID are four times more likely to end up in the hospital than their younger counterparts, and worryingly, at 30 times greater risk for death. If you are 65 and older, the risks are even higher.

Clearly, states vaccination plans must prioritize the most vulnerable. That includes older Michiganders who are at much higher risk of death to COVID. In this state, those age 65 and older have been prioritized for vaccinations for several weeks, but many have not been able to schedule appointments due to a shortage of vaccines.

As we move forward with the real time distribution of vaccines, we must ensure that our state’s plans are implemented smoothly and efficiently. The first weeks of vaccine distribution got off to an unsteady start in Michigan, and all across America. Every day, residents of Michigan have questions about when and how they can get a vaccine. We need our federal government, state officials, and the private sector to work together to be much more clear about when and how to sign up to be vaccinated and to efficiently manage the processes to administer the vaccines.

To help our members and all Michiganders, AARP has published a guide to Michigan’s distribution plans, explaining how distribution will work, eligibility, the

timeline, vaccination locations, and other key details. The state guide is available at www.aarp.org/mivaccine and will be updated throughout the year as new information is available.

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