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Detroit expands Covid vaccine eligibility to autoworkers


Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

DETROIT — Manufacturing employees in the city, such as autoworkers, are now eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine without any restrictions such as age or proof of preexisting conditions.

The expanded eligibility for Detroit manufacturing workers marks a major expansion for autoworker eligibility for vaccination following similar actions by municipalities such as Boone County in Illinois. It should assist in keeping employees safe and auto plants up and running.

The United Auto Workers union estimates at least 10,000 of its members work in Detroit. A total number of manufacturing workers living in the city was not immediately available.

Detroit’s rollout of the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will be conducted at a conference center as well as clinics for major manufacturing operations, beginning with two SUV plants for Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler. Manufacturing employees who live or work in the city are eligible, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced Tuesday.

“The auto companies and UAW have done a great job so far, but nothing is as good as vaccination,” Duggan said during a press conference that included UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada receiving a vaccination.

Detroit automakers implemented extensive safety measures and social distancing guidelines last year during a two-month shutdown of their plants to assist in lowering the spread of Covid-19. Implemented safety measures included plastic barriers, masks and other things such as temperature screenings and protocols when entering and exiting the plants.

“Workers in manufacturing, whether they’re union or not, have really been there throughout this whole pandemic working, and it’s not been easy,” Estrada said. “We’ve had illness in our plants and deaths, so this is incredibly important.”

Fewer than 30 of the UAW’s roughly 400,000 members have died due to Covid-19, according to union spokesman Brian Rothenberg. He said the union is working “with the White House, governors and all of our partners over vaccine distribution plans.”

Stellantis employees in Boone County, Illinois, were among the first autoworkers to receive Covid-19 vaccinations. The company said it looks “forward to working with other health departments to make vaccines available to the rest of our Stellantis employees following local distribution plans.”

“Today’s announcement is an important step in protecting our employees and our communities, so we can return to the lives we all want to live,” Stellantis said in a statement.

The Stellantis plants in Detroit, including a new facility that’s not fully up and running, are among the largest manufacturing operations in the city. The company expects to initially provide 8,000 people with vaccination.

General Motors also owns a large plant in the city, but that facility is temporarily not producing vehicles until later this year due to construction.

Detroit has administered 90,170 doses — 70.7% of the doses it has received — and has more than 52,800 appointments scheduled, according to its website.

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada receives a Covid-19 vaccination on March 2, 2021 during a press conference with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

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