Officials weigh in on how quickly MI can reach first vaccine milestone in state's plan

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Health officials in Berrien County gave an update on the progress of the state’s new “Vacc to Normal” initiative of getting 70 percent of Michiganders vaccinated before lifting all COVID-19 restrictions.

55 percent of people with their first dose is step one in Michigan’s four-part plan.

But, the state is only at 50 percent after four months, so health experts say people shouldn’t expect to meet that first milestone too soon.  

“It might take another few months to get another 10 percent of our population, so I do not predict as a state we are going to get to 55 percent in the next month, but some of that does have to do with us adjusting our strategy to get vaccines to where people are instead of expecting them to come to us,” said Nicki Britten, Berrien County Health Department Health Officer.

Making the vaccine convenient is the latest hurdle, as some are not signing up for appointments or skipping their second dose. 

“The CDC definitely says if that 42 day window has passed it’s okay to receive that second dose and not restart the series,” said Britten.

Plus, building trust with those who are on the fence continues to be a priority, especially as some are questioning the vaccine’s efficacy.

“Not everybody who you immunize makes an antibody sufficient to ward off infection, and of course there’s some new strains,” said Dr. Loren Hamel, Spectrum Health Lakeland President.

As of now, Berrien County health officers have no indication universities, employers, or other entities in the area plan to require vaccination. 

But – it is happening already elsewhere.

“I recognize there’s a lot a lot of consternation about the notion of requirement, but I’m really interested in how that’s working in other places,” said Dr. Hamel.

According to MDHHS, the four milestones in the “Vacc to Normal” program are:

55 percent allows in-person work to resume

60 percent increases indoor capacity at sports stadiums, conference centers and funeral homes to 25 percent, and capacity at exercise facilities to 50 percent, plus, lifts the curfew on restaurants and bars

65% lifts all indoor capacity limits and only requires social distancing between parties, and relaxes limits on residential gatherings

70 percent is expected to lift the statewide mask mandate

*Note, the percentage for each vaccine milestone would reflect those who have received their first shot, and there would be a two week period after the milestone is reached before respective restrictions would be lifted.

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