Michigan hits new COVID-19 vaccine milestone: 50% of residents have at least one dose

Michigan hit a new milestone Monday in the race to end the COVID-19 pandemic: 50% of residents ages 16 and older — about 4 million people — have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Health leaders have said it will take at least 70% of the population to be fully vaccinated to stop widespread outbreaks and protect the most vulnerable, though with more contagious variants of the virus circulating now in Michigan and nationally, that number may be higher. 

“There’s a debate about what constitutes herd immunity, is it 70%, 68%, 81%?” President Joe Biden said Monday at a stop at Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth, Virginia. He highlighted the wide availability of vaccines now in the U.S. as demand for the shots has begun to wane. 

“The point is right now every single person 16 years or older doesn’t have to wait in line,” he said. “Just show up and get a vaccination now. I plead with everyone get vaccinated now, please.”

Both national and state data suggest the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations peaked in the second week of April. 

Nationally, the seven-day average for vaccinations dropped 27% between April 11 and April 27 — from a weekly average of 3.3 million shots in arms to 2.4 million doses administered, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

In Michigan, the decline has been more dramatic, falling 52% from the week ending April 10, when 667,698 Michiganders got COVID-19 vaccines, to the week ending May 1, when 302,395 got shots, according to state data.

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a plan last week that ties the easing of pandemic public health restrictions to specific COVID-19 vaccination thresholds, saying the state can’t get back to normal unless people get their shots.

The plan would allow employees to return to in-person work in all sectors of the state’s economy two weeks after 55% of Michiganders 16 and older (4.45 million people) initiate the COVID-19 vaccination process by getting at least one dose. 

Whitmer projected last week that the state could hit the 55% mark by the end of this week, “meaning we could reach step one just two weeks later, before the end of May. But it’s counting on all of us to keep pushing to make sure we get vaccinated”

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Two weeks after 60% of Michiganders 16 and older get at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Whitmer said her administration will:

  • Increase indoor capacity at sports stadiums to 25%. 
  • Increase indoor capacity at conference centers/banquet halls/funeral homes  to 25%. 
  • Increase capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50%. 
  • Lift the curfew on restaurants and bars.   

And two weeks after the state hits the threshold of 65% of residents who’ve gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Whitmer’s plan would lift all indoor capacity limits, but still require social distancing. Limits on social gatherings at people’s homes also would be relaxed. 

Once two weeks have passed after the state hits its target of vaccinating 70% of the state’s 16 and older population — 5,667,842 residents — the administration’s plan would no longer require face masks or other mitigation measures except in “unanticipated circumstances,” which could include the spread of vaccine-resistant variants.   

On Monday, the state’s COVID-19 trends continued to improve, as the state’s COVID-19 case rate, hospitalizations and percentage of positive tests continued to fall after the third surge peaked in mid-April. Since the pandemic began, nearly 850,000 Michiganders have contracted the virus and 17,771 have died.