At 90%, Henry Ford Health System inches toward fully vaccinated workforce

Senior leaders at Henry Ford Health System said Tuesday that it is nearing a fully vaccinated workforce as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb.

Bob Riney, President of Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer, said this week’s decision by the FDA to grant full approval to the Pfizer vaccine will boost the health system’s vaccination progress, which now stands at 90%.

“When we started down this journey, we were about 68%,” Riney said during a briefing with reporters. “To be well over 90% now is something that we’re very, very grateful to our team members for.”

On June 29, Henry Ford became the first health system in Michigan to require the COVID1-19 vaccine for its workforce. It takes effect Sept. 10.

The pace of overall vaccinations administered by the health system has steadily increased in the past five weeks as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads across southeast Michigan and the state of Michigan. During the week of Aug. 15, Henry Ford administered nearly 1,900 doses of vaccine, the highest volume for a seven-day stretch since mid-June.

At the same time, more people are testing positive for COVID. Last week, 452 people tested positive at Henry Ford, a significant increase since the last week of July when 187 people tested positive. Riney said full approval of the Pfizer vaccine could be an inflection point to get more people vaccinated. People wanting to receive their first dose of Pfizer can schedule an appointment at www.henryford.com/vaccine.

“We especially want to underscore the significance of vaccination for those who have children under the age 12 and who are not eligible for the COVID vaccine,” Riney said. “Getting vaccinated reduces your risk of getting COVID and reduces your risk of spreading it to members of your family.”

Adnan Munkarah, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, reported that 100 patients were hospitalized for COVID across its five hospitals, and an additional 100 were hospitalized waiting for a COVID test result.

“The last time we’ve seen triple digit numbers was a few months ago in early May,” Dr. Munkarah said. “We continue to be worried by these numbers climbing up.”

Of the 100 COVID patients, 77 are unvaccinated, 19 are vaccinated and four are in between their vaccine doses. Noting a silver lining, Dr. Munkarah said hospitalizations are rising at a much slower pace than previous surges.

Dr. Munkarah announced that the health system is starting to administer third doses of the mRNA vaccine for those who have moderately or severely compromised immune systems. These patients can schedule their third shot by appointment only through their Henry Ford MyChart account or online at www.henryford.com/vaccine. Because appointments are limited, he encouraged people who are eligible for the third shot to go where it’s most convenient such as the retail chain pharmacies. City of Detroit residents can also go to the TCF Center.

As for third shots for the general adult population, Dr. Munkarah said Henry Ford is in the planning stages of how the process will work. Details will be forthcoming.

With COVID infections up 61% and hospitalization up 68% statewide, Dr. Munkarah once again recommended monoclonal antibody therapy as a viable treatment option for people who test positive for COVID. The one-time infusion treatment can “keep your symptoms from worsening and keep you out of the hospital,” Dr. Munkarah said. People who received the treatment must wait 90 days to get vaccinated.

Riney and Dr. Munkarah each endorsed vaccination and masking as two proven measures to protect people. They said staff are grateful for the health system’s proactive and strong advocacy for vaccination and masking. “One of the things they are very frustrated by, and I talked to some nurses just this last week in our ICU, treating very ill and young unvaccinated individuals,” Riney said.

“We don’t know how this is going to play out in the months ahead,” he continued. “But we all have a stake in the outcome by getting vaccinated and masking up. Is it uncomfortable, yes. But is it a means to getting us back the freedoms we enjoy, yes. Both are proven public health measures – vaccination and mask wearing – and they can beat back the virus, minimizing the impact even if someone does test positive for COVID. This is still a public health emergency and it requires all of us to do our part. We will combat this. We’re seeing great efforts. We’re seeing great improvement. But we know as these variants change, we put ourselves at greater and greater risk. So, stopping the cycle is really our 100% goal for all of us.”

This press release was provided by the Henry Ford Health System.