CDC director visits Detroit to encourage vaccinations amid respiratory illness rise

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This article appeared on WXYZ Channel 7. Read more here.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made a stop in Detroit Thursday to encourage vaccinations amid a rise in COVID-19, RSV and flu cases.

Cohen toured and visited the Detroit Healthy Housing Center on the city’s east side where the Detroit Health Department and Detroit Neighborhood Service Organization teamed up to host a free vaccine clinic for vulnerable populations.

“Just like we have food deserts, we have health care deserts. This is one of those health care deserts. The east side of Detroit really needs health care support,” said Linda Little, who is the president and CEO of Detroit’s Neighborhood Service Organization. “This clinic provides that support for people who can’t get to the hospital or other centers that are dispersed throughout the city.”

Johanna Parker was one of the patients using the free service Thursday morning. She says for her, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is important because she is immunocompromised.

“I have ovarian cancer, so my immunity is very low. I catch everything and so I have to keep up with my COVID vaccines in order to continue the treatments,” Parker said. “It’s a blessing to me just to get what you need when you need it.”

Cohen says currently, about 16% of adults in the U.S. have updated vaccinations, but cases are on the rise as we enter the holiday gathering season.

“Here in the Detroit area, we are still seeing a lot of COVID. Actually in the last week, 800 people have gone into the hospital with COVID here in Michigan,” Cohen said.

Cohen says as the virus continues to mutate, it’s important to get updated vaccines to prevent harmful long-term symptoms.

“Just like the flu virus changes year over year, we’re seeing the COVID virus do something similar and keep changing, so you want to get an updated COVID vaccine to match all of those changes,” Cohen said. “The virus is actually getting more transmissible, so actually easier to transmit from person to person. The change is that we are different. Many of us have either gotten some kind of vaccine or we’ve gotten COVID, which is good we have some underlying immunity. The problem is though because the virus changed, we can get COVID again and we can still get very sick.”

The slow in vaccinations is especially present in Black and brown communities like what we have in Detroit.

“People are getting really, really comfortable. They’re not really thinking too much about COVID but once again, we are right back where we were around this time last year, where the numbers started to increase just a little bit,” Detroit’s Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo said.

The CDC says they’re also still battling a lot of fear around vaccinations. To combat it, they say they’re partnering with community organizations like Detroit Healthy Housing and working with cities with larger communities of color like Detroit to spread accurate information.

Detroit Healthy Housing says they’re hopeful to offer similar events in the future. In the meantime, you can find more information on where you can get a vaccine on the city health department’s website.

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