City of Detroit urges parents to get young children vaccinated. But will they listen?

Denise Fair, city of Detroit's chief public health officer. - City of Detroit
City of Detroit
Denise Fair, city of Detroit's chief public health officer.

City of Detroit officials on Friday urged parents to get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19, saying it's a critical step in reducing the spread of the virus ahead of a potential winter surge.

About 68,000 children in Detroit and 825,000 in Michigan are now eligible for a vaccine after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old.

Every day in Michigan, an average of more than 450 children under the age of 12 test positive for COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). More than 201,000 Michigan residents ages 19 and younger have been infected with the coronavirus, and 20 have died.

Detroit will begin offering vaccines to young children on Monday.

But getting shots into the arms of children in Detroit is not going to be easy. With just 46.8% of the adult population inoculated, the city has the lowest vaccination rate in the state.

As winter approaches, health officials are bracing for another possible COVID-19 wave.

“Now is the time to get your children vaccinated,” Denise Fair, the city’s chief public health officer, said at a news conference. “We know vaccines work. There is no doubt about that. It is our best tool to get out of this pandemic.”

So far this year, 93.1% of Michigan residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 were not vaccinated. Unvaccinated residents also account for 90.7% of hospitalizations and 90.5% of deaths.

The news conference was held in the Skylar Herbert Room at Detroit Public Safety headquarters, named in honor of a 5-year-old girl from Detroit who died of COVID-19 complications last year.

“It’s a reminder to all of us how fragile life is,” Mayor Mike Duggan said of Herbert’s death. “If her parents had vaccines available (for her), there is no doubt they would have acted to get her protected. We never lose sight of what’s at stake in this.”

Nicolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD, said vaccines are critical to preventing school closures and outbreaks. Since the beginning of the school year, about 680 student in DPSCD have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 3,000 students have been quarantined. Several schools have gone to remote learning.

“It allows the teaching process to return to normalcy,” Vitti said. “Children won’t have to quarantine if they are vaccinated.”

While most children who get infected with COVID-19 fully recover, some have been diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which can inflame body parts, including the heart, brain, lungs, and kidneys.

“The risk is death, so we must take this seriously,” Dr. Carla Watson, a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital of Detroit, said.

“I want to assure you that vaccines are safe,” Watson added. “We have been studying this vaccine for a long time.”

Schools are one of the biggest source of COVID-19 outbreaks and could play a significant role in determining the severity of future infections because children who are infected can spread the virus to their families.

In the first nine weeks of the school year, hundreds of outbreaks have been reported at schools.

The city will begin providing vaccines by appointment on Monday. So far, there are two locations:

• The Detroit Health Department Immunization Clinic, 100 Mack, 4 p.m.- 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
• Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays.

DPSCD is working with the city’s health officials to open public schools on the weekend for vaccines. No dates have been scheduled yet.

To make an appointment, call 313-230-0505. To get vaccinated, a child must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

In October, the city launched a campaign called, “Get the vax, not the fiction,” which is aimed at dispelling conspiracy theories and myths about COVID-19. The city is also running ads on the radio, television, and websites and is sending every resident a postcard with information on a hotline center for anyone with questions about vaccines.

Parents outside of Detroit can find a vaccine site for children at

“Being able to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11 with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine brings us hope and also an additional opportunity to urge all eligible Michiganders to get vaccinated,” Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive, said in a statement. “We know these vaccines work and protect our children and their families. Even healthy children can suffer serious effects from COVID-19. The vaccines remain our way out of the pandemic, and more than 825,000 more children in our state are now eligible.”

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