Theis to Whitmer: Distribute COVID-19 vaccine based on medical need

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Lana Theis said in a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday that the state should reconsider its use of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) in determining the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

“It is my duty, and the duty of all elected officials, to ensure that Michigan addresses health care disparities in a way that doesn’t create further disparity,” said Theis, R-Brighton. “Instead of prioritizing COVID-19 vaccine distribution based on medical need, the state’s current method prioritizes bureaucratic social determinates to the detriment of tens of thousands of residents in my district.

“The vulnerable in my district are last in line in the state and can’t get a vaccine because of a bureaucratic technicality. I’m calling on the governor and state health officials to rethink this approach so that our most vulnerable residents don’t slip through the cracks in our fight against the coronavirus.”

The SVI consists of numerous factors, including education level, employment status, housing and whether someone has a car, for example. According to the SVI calculation, Theis said Livingston County ranks 83 out of the state’s 83 counties, resulting in the county having only received 5,400 first round doses of the vaccine and 1,300 second round doses, despite the county being home to 41,000 currently eligible residents in the state’s 1A and 1B vaccine groupings.

“It is clear that the number of vaccine doses received by Livingston County is grossly disproportionate when compared to other counties based on eligible population,” Theis said. “The state has not historically used social factors when confronting past outbreaks, like H1N1, but instead relied on medical factors associated with vulnerabilities to the disease. This is exactly how we should be getting the COVID-19 vaccine into people’s arms.

“To address this growing disparity of vaccine availability, I strongly urge the governor to immediately implement a more reasonable, medical-factor-based plan that allows the most medically vulnerable populations to be prioritized for vaccination.”

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Editor’s note: A copy of Sen. Theis’ letter to the governor is attached.