Denise Fair, chief public health officer for the City of Detroit, does not have a magic wand to combat the coronavirus.
But Fair does have something else: practical measures she says will help combat the virus. And armed with statistics and safe-keeping protocols, she did discuss ways to reduce the alarming high COVID-19 positivity rates in the city (and regionally and beyond) which is a growing concern among local leaders and residents alike.
During a recent virtual interview with Fair at Real Times Media’s Studio 1452, she and Michigan Chronicle’s Digital Anchor Andre Ash discussed the city’s vaccination efforts and potential (tried and true) ways COVID-19 could be minimized.
“It’s going really well — people still want to be vaccinated,” Fair told Ash of getting residents vaccinated. “We’re getting an ample supply of vaccines (drive-thru and walk-in). (We) expanded our efforts and are going into the community launching Saturday clinics with local churches … in the city and in schools.”
Fair said despite the city’s robust effort, so far only 25% of Detroiters have been vaccinated and are “lagging behind” in the rest of the counties.
Local statistics show exactly how far the city is behind vaccination rates in comparison:
- Oakland County has a vaccination rate of 48%
- Macomb County has a vaccination rate of 39%
“We have a long way to go and I think we’re headed in the right direction,” she said.
Fair said (during the city’s Neighborhood Vaccine Week) that more vaccination campaign efforts are being pushed and the focus is now “not just access but education.”`
“We want to make sure we get questions answered,” she said, adding that in mid-April the city held town halls with over 9,000 callers who had questions. “To me, that means people are craving knowledge.”
They also discussed the federal recommendation to pause the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (due to blood-clotting issues) and how the city is handling the vaccination shift.
The United States health officials are requesting for the immediate halt of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six recipients were found to have a rare blood clot disorder, according to reports.
The FDA and CDC announced recently that they are recommending the pause. The FDA said as of April 12 more than 6.8 million doses of that vaccine have been administered in the U.S. The FDA and CDC are looking into data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine.
“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” reads the statement from the FDA. “Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered.”
“CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases,” the FDA statement reads on. “Until that process is complete, we are recommending this pause.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for an emergency use authorization in February.
Fair said that so far, of the 125,000 Detroiters vaccinated, 98% of them received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and only 2% received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Also, Detroiters who were scheduled to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should already keep their appointments — another two-dose vaccine will be available.
Throughout the week of April 12, Detroit was going to administer Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to residents.
“Based on the recommendation from the CDC and FDA, the Detroit Health Department is halting the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until further notice. The city has a sufficient supply of Moderna and Pfizer to vaccinate everyone who had an appointment scheduled this week at the Northwest Activity Center or the neighborhood clinics for a J&J shot,” Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said in an earlier published emailed statement.
“There is really no best vaccine — the best vaccine is the one available to you,” she said, adding that the city was swift in switching over vaccines. “We quickly pivoted … of an abundance of caution.”
Participants will receive an appointment for their second dose three to four weeks later. Appointments at the TCF center and Saturday community centers are unaffected by this announcement. They have always been receiving Pfizer/Moderna vaccines.
When it comes to getting back to normal, Fair said that it is “hopefully soon” but in the meantime, she is going to keep “preaching the same thing” about the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, and getting vaccinated.
“I think people are tired and want to get back to their normal lives of backyard BBQs — that might not happen for a while until we double down on our efforts; follow rules and get vaccinated and we can get to community immunity,” she said.
Fair added that herd immunity equates to about 70% of Detroiters being vaccinated.
“Hopefully we can get to that sooner rather than later,” she said. “We have made it easy for Detroiters to get vaccinated.”
That ease comes in the form of one phone number to call: 313-230-0505.
“Please stay focused, follow the safety precautions,” she said adding that she understands as a Black woman there is still some vaccine hesitancy but it’s time to buckle down even as “there is mistrust in the community.”
“Save your life; arm yourself with knowledge. Make the best decision for yourself. … We just want to see you thrive … and get vaccinated,” Fair said.
For more information visit https://detroitmi.gov/ and search for the Detroit Health Department.