Health department details vaccine safety; VA offering appointments | News, Sports, Jobs

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Health Department is assuring the public that the current COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

Dr. Bob Lorinser, MCHD medical director, said in a news release that early safety data from the first month of COVID-19 vaccination indicates the shots are as safe as studies had suggested. “The concern of vaccine-associated deaths hasn’t been seen, especially given the vulnerable aging populations receiving the vaccine and recent articles in the press,” Lorinser said.

He said several cases mentioned in the press are being evaluated in more detail, but causality is difficult to determine. According to the CDC, about 4% of 65-year-olds die within their next year of life.

With millions of people receiving the vaccine, Lorinser said that odds are some will die within days or weeks for reasons that might or might not be related to COVID-19.

In the U.S., there is an average of 5,800 deaths daily in this age group, he said, comparing that with one to two deaths in Marquette County.

“The COVID vaccine is becoming one of the most scrutinized and studied vaccines in history, and so far, the data supports its safety and efficacy,” Lorinser said.

Of the 75,000 people in COVID trials, no one in the vaccinated group died compared to 150 in the placebo group, and few in the vaccine group were hospitalized versus hundreds in the placebo group, he said.

“I call that success,” Lorinser said.

No serious problems have turned up among the first 22 million people vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The MCHD said data was collected from:

≤ V-safe, which involves people who are vaccinated reporting their symptoms via text; only 10% of vaccine recipients report that data;

≤ the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which allows recipients and medical personnel to report adverse effects to vaccinations. The program was not designed to assess causality but rapidly detects safety signals that can be further evaluated.

More than 9,000 people reported side effects, and slightly over 1,000 of those reports were considered serious. The majority of complaints involved fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, chills, fever and pain;

≤ and Vaccine Safety Datalink Rapid Cycle Analysis, which looks at medical records form nine participating health care organizations, including data on over 12 million people annually. More than 162,000 people in the system have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination.

Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, briefed a CDC advisory committee on Jan. 27 regarding the agency’s review data, the MCHD said.

Major findings of this report include:

≤ More than 70% reported pain, 33% reported fatigue, 30% said they had headaches and about 11% noted they had chills, fever, swelling or joint pain;

≤ Vaccinated people have suffered major health crises and even death within a few days of receiving a shot, but the rate of those events is not higher than would be expected in the general population and cannot be connected to the vaccine;

≤ There is no increased risk for any of 20 common conditions, which included heart attack, appendicitis, embolisms and diseases caused by low platelet counts. In the vaccinated group, four people report Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis seen in a small number of people in each of the vaccine trials. There were 348 cases in the unvaccinated group;

≤ There was little difference in reported side effects between the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines and;

≤ People generally had a harder time with the second dose than the first dose.

In a Tuesday article, The Detroit News reported that through Monday, 10 of the 15 Michigan counties with the highest first dose vaccination rates per 100,000 residents were located in the Upper Peninsula.

The story said that the U.P. benefited in part because health department officials indicated some counties had cold storage units available early in the distribution process, making the counties eligible for the first shipments from Pfizer in mid-December.

Also, because Pfizer ships vaccines only in packages with a minimum of 975 doses, several U.P. counties received shipments that were larger than many similarly populated counties would have otherwise received.

VA center taking appointments

The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center is asking enrolled veterans who want the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to call and schedule an appointment. Eligible veterans can call 906-774-3300 and dial extension 33115 between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. EST Monday through Friday to speak to a scheduler.

There are upcoming clinics at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in Iron Mountain, Ironwood, Hancock and Sault Ste. Marie.

The Iron Mountain VA said it began receiving vaccines in mid-December and has administered more than 4,500 vaccines to veterans and staff. The facility has been contacting veterans using the latest CDC guidelines for prioritization and is now opening clinics for veterans who want to call and make an appointment.

These vaccination clinics are open to any veteran who is enrolled and participating in VA services.

Bar’s liquor license suspended

Based on an investigative report received from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s Enforcement Division, an emergency suspension of a Class C license and specially designated merchant licenses was granted for the Wooden Nickel bar, located at 1751 Presque Isle Ave., Marquette.

A post-suspension hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 19 via Zoom to determine whether the suspension should continue or other fines and penalties should be imposed.

The licensee is Irie Vibes, Inc., according to the report.

A document from the MLCC said that at about 12:15 a.m. Feb. 2, a sergeant and an officer from the Marquette City Police Department noticed a suspected violation of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order regarding face masks and social gatherings while on patrol.

Marquette police then inspected the bar and noticed about 60 people inside, which was more than 25% of the posted seating capacity of 66 people, and the premises were occupied well past the 10 p.m. curfew, officials said. Officers said they observed many patrons standing and mingling, many were gathered in a common area and no patrons or staff wore face masks, the report stated.

Marquette police conducted an inspection of the Wooden Nickel at about midnight Feb. 4, and observed 40 to 50 people inside, with the premises again occupied well past the 10 p.m. curfew, according to the report. They also noticed patrons standing and mingling as well as gathering in a common area, and again, patrons and staff were not wearing face masks, officials said.

Marquette police also had observed the bar violating MDHHS orders on Jan. 1 and Jan. 16, according to the report.

Food assistance available

Approximately 350,000 Michigan families will continue to have access to additional food assistance benefits this month as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MDHHS announced Thursday.

The state previously approved the additional food assistance beginning last March. It is now being extended through this month with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact virtually every aspect of our lives, the last thing Michigan families should have to worry about is being able to afford their groceries each week,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “Michiganders deserve to have peace of mind in knowing resources are available to help them during this time, which is why I’m grateful we can continue providing this vital support for families throughout the state.”

Eligible clients will see additional food assistance benefits on their Bridge Card by Feb. 28, with payments beginning for some households on Thursday. Additional benefits will be loaded onto Bridge Cards as a separate payment from the assistance that’s provided earlier in the month.

“Extending these food assistance benefits is part of the department’s continuing efforts to help Michiganders put food on the table during the pandemic,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement. “We will continue to work with our partners in the federal government to provide easy access to nutritious food.”

More than 1.2 million people in Michigan receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits through the state’s Food Assistance Program.

Households eligible for Food Assistance Program benefits will receive additional benefits this month to bring all current SNAP cases to the maximum monthly allowance for that group size. This change only applies to customers not currently receiving the maximum benefit amount.

The 350,000 households that receive increased benefits represent greater than 50% of the more than 690,000 Michigan households that received food assistance in September, the MDHHS said. The remaining households already receive the maximum benefit.

The federal government is providing additional funding to states for food assistance under House Resolution 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Eligible families do not need to reapply to receive the additional benefits. People who receive food assistance can check their benefits balance on their Michigan Bridge Cards by going online to or calling a consumer service representative toll-free at 888-678-8914. They can ask questions about the additional benefits by calling or emailing their caseworker.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is

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