Michigan COVID-19 vaccinations rise for third straight week

Michigan’s weekly number of people getting an initial COVID-19 shot rose for the third straight week after having consistently dropped for two months.

The increase coincided with the spread of the delta variant — the most contagious coronavirus mutant yet — and a $5 million state sweepstakes designed to incentivize vaccinations.

There were about 41,000 first-dose immunizations last week, the most since the week of June 13-19. Fewer people received an initial dose in July than in June — roughly 192,000 vs. approximately 167,000 — but officials said Wednesday that vaccination rates always are lower in mid-summer.

“The truth is that every single day when a certain number of people get vaccinated, the pool of people remaining by definition are harder to reach and harder to convince than those who made the decision before,” Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan and co-chair of the Protect Michigan Commission, said while helping to announce the six latest winners of $50,000 prizes. “We have to work harder and harder to get an increasingly smaller number of people.”

The state health department, meanwhile, recommended universal indoor masking for all school teachers, staff and students regardless of their vaccination status — an expected step that aligns with federal guidance. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she will not require masks in school, like she did last academic year, instead letting each district, charter academy and private school decide.

The $50,000 winners all were vaccinated after the MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes was launched. They include three women and three men — a hospital cook from Port Huron, a West Bloomfield realtor, the manager of a welding and fabrication company in Kincheloe, a Grand Rapids resident who works in the construction and supply industry, a Ford Motor Co. machinist from South Lyon and a respiratory therapist from Grand Rapids.

The latter, Brianna Hrejsa, said she was hesitant because the vaccines have emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration but not full approval. Pfizer and Moderna have applied for full approval, and a Pfizer decision is expected soon.

She said she did more research because she has contact with patients and her partner is immunocompromised.

“I want to do my part in … helping keep myself but my partner, my patients and my community safe,” said Hrejsa, who plans to save most of the money, potentially for a down payment on a house, and to use some to pursue another degree. “I’m tired about being anxious about getting sick.”

Registration for the monthlong vaccine lottery ended Tuesday.

Roughly 64% of residents ages 16 and up have gotten at least one dose — the metric being used by state officials to set the 70% goal. Children as young as 12 are eligible. Approximately 54% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Kerry Ebersole Singh, director of the commission that promotes the vaccines’ effectiveness and works to overcome hesitancy, noted that the next school year is approaching and many businesses plan to resume in-person office work after Labor Day. The panel intends to highlight the stories of people who were infected, she said.

One of the $50,000 winners said he “went through a really bad time” while fighting COVID-19 last year and was on the fence because he has antibodies. His daughter persistently encouraged him to get vaccinated.

“It’s your family, it’s your friends that can make the difference in getting someone the information and getting them to take the shot and protecting themselves and their loved ones,” Ebersole Singh said.

About 46% of Michigan residents live in counties where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging everyone ages 2 and up to wear masks in indoor public places even if they are fully vaccinated. The state’s seven-day case average was 808 on Tuesday, up from 306 two weeks earlier, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The two-week infection rate was lower than in all but six states.