Vaccination is the ‘Pathway to Getting Back to Normal’

May 06, 2021
Bob Riney and Dr. Munkarah

DETROIT (May 6, 2021) – Henry Ford Health System senior leaders continued to emphasize Thursday that vaccination was key to driving down hospitalizations, controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus and emerging variants and “getting back to normal.”

Hospitalizations across the health system have fallen 42% in the past two weeks and the positivity rate for infection was 8.9%, a significant drop from 13.3% in that same period. On April 16, the positivity rate was 20%.

While those trends provided a hopeful sign, senior leaders said getting more people vaccinated was critical to slowing the transmission of the virus and its more contagious variants. Henry Ford has administered just under 300,000 doses of vaccine since Dec. 17, and more than 180,000 people are fully vaccinated. Statewide, 40% of Michigan’s 8 million residents are fully vaccinated.

“We continue to be very hopeful that we are getting over our third surge and we'll have it behind us very, very soon,” Adnan Munkarah, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer said during a briefing with reporters. “The reality is, although we have a good vaccination rate and many people have received their first doses, that rate is not where it needs to be for us to go back to normal life.”

Bob Riney, President of Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer, called on those who are vaccinated to continue their advocacy and share “their why” among family members, neighbors and co-workers who are procrastinating or hesitant.

“If we can get the vaccination rate higher, I think we’re going to have greater security where we won’t continue to see cycles with new variants at the same kind of level that have caused us a lot of personal restrictions in our life,” Riney said. “We want to get back to normal, but we have to understand the connection. The pathway to getting back to normal is to get our vaccination rate up. We can say it 100 different ways, but it’s the simple truth.”

Riney said people who are unvaccinated are putting themselves at great risk of contracting COVID. “For those who are still hesitant or have made up your mind that you’re not getting the vaccine, know that you are 25 times more likely to get COVID,” Riney said. “Is that a risk worth taking?"

Riney said Henry Ford was stepping up efforts to bring vaccine to the community, beginning with a vaccine event at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit and hosted by the former NBA star himself. Next week, Henry Ford’s community vaccine vans will be in Southwest Detroit to vaccinate people in the Latino and Hispanic communities. Also, vaccine sites at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn and Oak Park City Hall are now accepting walk-ins. There are a range of options for people to find a vaccine site at henryford.com/vaccine

To address concerns about pregnancy, infertility and the vaccines, Henry Ford will host a Facebook Live event at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 12. Betty Chu, M.D., Henry Ford’s chief quality officer and an Ob/Gyn physician, will serve as moderator for a discussion that will include Allison Weinmann, M.D., an infectious diseases physician, and Monique Swain, M.D., an Ob/Gyn physician.

Next week, the FDA is expected to authorize the use of the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 to 15 years old, a decision that would give a significant boost to vaccination efforts everywhere, Dr. Munkarah said. He also underscored the importance for people to complete the two-dose regimen of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

“All of the studies have shown that two doses are what’s effective. Even if we get some immunity with the first dose, we don’t know how long that immunity will last, and we don’t know how protective it is,” Dr. Munkarah said. “It’s very important for us to get all the vaccination that is needed in order to protect ourselves, protect our loves ones and the community around us.”

Dr. Munkarah also gave a progress report on monoclonal antibody therapy administered by the health since it expanded access to the promising infusion treatment. During the third surge of COVID-19 cases in April, Henry Ford had averaged about 190 infusions per week. Dr. Munkarah said the infusions have been “instrumental” in helping patients recover after testing positive for COVID-19.

If administered within 10 days of the onset of symptoms after a positive test, the treatment is effective in neutralizing the virus and preventing symptoms from worsening and keeping high-risk patients out of the hospital.

Susan Carlson of Macomb Township is convinced the treatment helped her and her husband Ken recover quickly after a sudden onset of COVID-19 symptoms. He developed a fever, chills, sore throat, cough and fatigue; she felt “clammy” and had a sore throat, shortness of breath and congestion. Both tested positive just days apart.

Both received their monoclonal antibody treatment at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township.

“We were very grateful to have something like this,” Carlson said. “I truly believe that it stopped my symptoms from getting any worse and I truly believe it kept my husband out of the hospital.”

At the time they got sick, the couple were just days removed from receiving their first dose of vaccine. They believe a family member who was unvaccinated was unknowingly exposed to the virus. Now, they must wait 90 days before getting their second shot. “We will get them,” she said.

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MEDIA CONTACT: David Olejarz / [email protected] / 313-303-0606

About Henry Ford Health System

Founded in 1915 by Henry Ford himself, Henry Ford Health System is a non-profit, integrated health system committed to improving people’s lives through excellence in the science and art of healthcare and healing. Henry Ford Health System includes Henry Ford Medical Group, with more than 1,900 physicians and researchers practicing in more than 50 specialties at locations throughout Southeast and Central Michigan. Acute care hospitals include Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI and Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson, MI – both Magnet® hospitals; Henry Ford Macomb Hospital; Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital; and Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.

The largest of these is Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, a quaternary care research and teaching hospital and Level 1 Trauma Center recognized for clinical excellence in cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, neurology, neurosurgery, and multi-organ transplants. The health system also provides comprehensive, best-in-class care for cancer at the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion, and orthopedics and sports medicine at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine – both in Detroit. As one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, Henry Ford Health System annually trains more than 3,000 medical students, residents, and fellows in more than 50 accredited programs, and has trained nearly 40% of the state’s physicians. Our dedication to education and research is supported by nearly $100 million in annual grants from the National Institutes of Health and other public and private foundations.

Henry Ford’s not-for-profit health plan, Health Alliance Plan (HAP), provides health coverage for more than 540,000 people.

Henry Ford Health System employs more than 33,000 people, including more than 1,600 physicians, more than 6,600 nurses and 5,000 allied health professionals.