COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Expands in Michigan

Starting Monday, two new groups will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan: people age 50 and over who have medical conditions or disabilities and family members and guardians who are caregivers for children with special health care needs. Starting March 22nd, all Michiganders age 50 and over will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Those who are eligible or are becoming eligible should register for the vaccine. To register for COVID-19 vaccinations in Ingham County:

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Updated COVID-19 Restrictions in Michigan

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced a number of changes to capacity limits related to COVID-19 that went into effect on Friday, March 5th. The largest change is increasing the capacity restriction on restaurants and bars to 50% from 25%. The updated limits include:

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COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Increasing

Early last week, President Biden announced that the U.S. will produce and have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for all adults in the U.S. by the end of May, significantly faster than earlier predictions estimating the end of July. In that same announcement, Biden also stated that he wanted to prioritize teachers to accelerate the reopening of schools in person. While the supply of vaccines may be sufficient by the end of May, this doesn’t necessarily factor in actual distribution and other factors that may limit how quickly that supply will reach people, thus it is unclear as to when everybody can be vaccinated. This also does not take into account the potential need for new or modified vaccines for new strains of the virus, nor the willingness of people to get vaccinated.

Regardless, the increase in supply is good news, especially for those who have been looking to get vaccinated but have struggled with waiting for it to be available. There are also estimates that the U.S. may have an oversupply of vaccines by late spring or early summer. This, however, factors in an estimated number of people in the U.S. that are also willing and eligible to get the vaccine as a number of people still refuse to get the vaccine. 

So far, about 116 million doses have been delivered, with around 88 million doses administered. Out of those who have received any of the vaccines, almost 30 million have received at least 2 doses. With the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use, we should soon see the numbers climb at an even faster rate.

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LGBTQ+ People are Disproportionately Arrested and Imprisoned

A new report from the Prison Policy Initiative shows the disproportionate criminalization of LGBTQ+ people. Among the findings:

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Advocacy Group Ask States to Move Michiganders With Disabilities Up On Vaccine Priority List

In a recent letter sent to Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC) asked to have individuals with disabilities moved up the COVID-19 vaccine prioritization list. Currently, Michiganders ages 18-64 with disabilities fall under group 1C in terms of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, meaning that based on current estimates, they may only be able to get the vaccine starting in May. In addition to citing the WHO’s classification of those with disabilities being in one of the most disproportionately impacted groups by the pandemic, the lack of access for those with disabilities was also brought up. For example, transportation to vaccination sites, waiting in long lines, and other issues make it harder for many individuals with disabilities to get vaccinated. In addition, some folks with disabilities have people who assist them with activities of daily living, meaning that those individuals may require close contact with others, making it nearly impossible to socially distance. So far, we have not heard any response or update to this, but if any more news comes in with regards to changes in COVID-19 vaccination prioritization, we will provide an update!

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Mason Teacher Resigns After School Stops Use of BLM Curriculum

An elementary school teacher in Mason (10 miles southeast of Lansing) resigned from her job last month, saying that administrators refused to let her use the National Black Lives Matter at School curriculum in her classroom. The curriculum is endorsed by the National Education Association, but the school said that it violated policies on teaching "controversial topics." The district says that it provided "a variety of resources to use in the classroom during Black History Month." At a board meeting earlier this week, a group of parents called on the school board to repeal the policy that prevented the BLM kit from being used, asked for the district to replace the co-chairs of its diversity committee and to approve the curriculum that was denied.

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Early Studies Suggest Those Who Have Had COVID-19 May Only Need One Shot

In several recent studies, most of which have not yet been peer reviewed, it has been suggested that people who have had COVID-19 may only need to get one dose of two-dose COVID-19 vaccines. The studies looked at this from several approaches, for example looking at antibodies, one way to measure immunity in an individual. Another study looked at healthcare workers who only got one dose and had already had COVID-19 prior to receiving the vaccine. These studies, while taking different approaches, both seemed to confirm that only one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine may be needed for those who had already been previously infected. Currently, the CDC has not updated their guidelines to reflect this and still recommends dosing based on the initial evidence and what the vaccines were approved for, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines being 2 doses each and more recently, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being a single dose. While it is still too early to tell, and there is not enough evidence yet to recommend this approach, the data, if reviewed and proven true, can allow more people to only receive one dose of the vaccine, potentially avoiding the stress of scheduling another appointment to get a second dose and freeing up supply. This may also help convince those worried about the side effects to get at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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Moderna Announces Study on New Version of Vaccine For South African COVID-19 Variant 

Moderna recently announced that they had shipped a new version of their vaccine to the NIH to begin clinical studies on how effective it is specifically against the variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 that was first identified in South Africa. The announcement states that Moderna is approaching this research in three different ways: 1) researching a booster vaccine based on the variant (i.e., an additional shot developed specifically against the new variant of the virus), 2) researching a multivalent booster which combines the variant specific booster from the first approach with previous forms of the Moderna vaccine that covered other strains, and 3) adding a third booster shot from the initial Moderna vaccine (i.e., an additional shot of the same vaccine for those who have already received the existing Moderna vaccine doses). While it is still too early to tell how effective the vaccines will be against the new strains of the virus that causes COVID-19, early evidence suggests current vaccines will still offer some protection.

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Two States Eliminating COVID-19 Restrictions; Thousands Will Die Unnecessarily

The Governor of Texas announced that he was lifting all COVID-19 restrictions, despite the state having the fifth highest 7-day COVID-19 death rate in the country and the most COVID-19 cases in that same time period. Mississippi's Governor also announced that he was lifting mask requirements in his state, despite Mississippi having the fifth highest COVID-19 death rate in the nation over the last six weeks. It is important to understand that these moves are entirely political, are not supported by public health experts, and will likely result in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths in those two states alone. President Biden spoke out strongly against the decisions.

Mississippi's Governor also announced that he plans to sign a bill banning trans athletes from competing in girls and women's sports at state schools and universities, and said "the push for kids to adopt transgenderism is just wrong." The move, like the removal of COVID-19 mask restrictions, is directly contrary to science, will directly cause harm, and is entirely based on political and religious biases. The action will directly harm trans youth, is opposed by experts, and is likely a violation of Title IX, Supreme Court rulings, and rulings from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (which Mississippi is subject to).

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This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):