The Biden administration denied a request from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to bump up the state’s allocation of coronavirus vaccines amid a surge in new Covid-19 cases.
Michigan is currently leading the country in infections and hospitalizations for coronavirus.
Whitmer said in a news briefing Thursday that she had spoken with the president directly to ask for extra doses. The White House said it wouldn’t be fair to take supply from other states to give to Michigan. Doses are allocated to states based on population size.
“This pandemic has hit every state and every county hard,” Jeff Zients, the COVID-19 response coordinator for the White House COVID-19 Response Team, responded Friday in a coronavirus briefing.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have died, and more are dying each day. There are tens of millions of people across the country in each and every state and county who have not yet been vaccinated. And the fair and equitable way to distribute the vaccine is based on the adult population by state, tribe and territory.
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“That’s how it’s been done, and we will continue to do so. The virus is unpredictable. We don’t know where the next increase in cases could occur and you know that we push out all vaccine as soon as it’s available.”
Officials in Michigan are reporting more than 7,000 new infections per day, seven times the number reported per day in early February.
“I made the case for a surge strategy,” Whitmer had said of her conversation with the president, adding that she’s disappointed he won’t fulfill her request. “At this point, that’s not being deployed but I am not giving up.”
“I’ve talked to a number of my colleagues, a lot of my fellow governors. They’re very worried about what they’re seeing in their numbers. Michigan often has been on the front end of the surges and that could be the case here, and that’s why it’s so important that we surge vaccines into hot spots. And I’ll continue fighting for that.”
Whitmer made it on a shortlist of candidates being considered for vice president during Biden’s 2020 campaign.
Instead, Biden said he would provide federal help to make sure Michigan is effectively distributing the vaccines it’s been allocated, as well as more tests and more medications to treat the virus.
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Michigan ranks 25th among states in its vaccination rate. About 25% of its residents have been fully vaccinated.
Whitmer, widely known for her stringent lockdowns during the pandemic, has resisted shutting down the state’s businesses this time around. “Policy change alone won’t change the tide,” she said Friday, as she urged Michiganders to take a two-week pause on indoor dining, sports and in-person school.
When Whitmer began calling for more doses from Washington, the state had not maxed out its orders for vaccines from the federal government, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation.
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A top state health official denied any issue with its ordering strategy.”We actually met with the White House team yesterday and walked through our entire ordering strategy, and when we ordered what and when,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Friday. “It’s very clear. They agreed with us that we are ordering all of the vaccines that are available to us.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.