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State business leaders: We need a better vaccination plan based on vulnerability | Letter

The Detroit News  |  The Detroit News

As leaders of the associations listed below, we agreed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to combine our efforts and provide the Whitmer administration, our members and their employees with data, perspective and guidance. 

Representing tens of thousands of Michigan businesses that employ over a million Michigan residents, we have striven to promote a safe environment for employees, customers and the general public. Like many of you, we are desirous of both safely and rapidly opening our businesses as a means to the long-term health and welfare for all Michigan residents. 

Key to this hope is the successful vaccination of our citizens against COVID-19.

Even as Michigan has dramatically improved its vaccine distribution system over the last few weeks, rising to one of the best performing states in the U.S., we believe the current prioritization effort based upon CDC guidelines could be vastly improved. 

While well-intentioned, the current system prioritizes both age and employment through various, ill-defined categories in a manner that has proven difficult to understand, administer and verify. 

As a result, our citizens are left to wonder if they have the right combination of age, comorbidities and employment allowing them the opportunity to receive a shot. The complexity of the system has also caused an inconsistent implementation across counties, health systems and businesses.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s declaration of eligibility for all Michigan residents 65 and older just a few weeks ago was bold, and a leading reason for the increase in vaccination across the state.

Michigan deserves a system that prioritizes health and safety for all, one that has the proven ability to save lives expeditiously. And we need it as quickly as possible. 

After considerable research and discussion, we believe a system that emphasizes age will quickly reduce mortality and hospitalization rates while creating greater certainty, understanding and acceptance among our citizens.

We further recommend that such a system maintain prioritization for those with comorbidities and narrow, better-defined employment-based categories (including, for instance, the current frontline worker designation — teachers, EMS, police, fire and corrections).

In short, we encourage the state of Michigan, our healthcare providers and local public health departments to focus on a system that protects the most vulnerable. One that is easier to implement, communicate and verify, thereby resulting in greater trust and reliance from our citizens. And we look forward to working toward the same.

Rick Baker, president & CEO

Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

Sandy Baruah, president & CEO

Detroit Regional Chamber

Brian Calley, president

Small Business Association of Michigan

Tim Daman, president & CEO

Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce

Jeff Donofrio, president & CEO

Business Leaders for Michigan

Rich Studley, president & CEO

Michigan Chamber of Commerce

John Walsh, president & CEO

Michigan Manufacturers Association