Detroit Three automaker employees left ready for COVID-19 vaccines


General Motors intended to inform its worldwide workforce by the end of December of its plan, when a COVID-19 vaccine would be available and how GM would give it to those who wanted it.

Now, almost three months later, there are no vaccines available to GM, so no clear plan yet.

Similarly, in November, Ford Motor Co. bought 12 ultra-cold freezers across the city around the world to hold vaccines. The freezers remain largely empty and any plan to administer the shots is on hold.

Only Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, recently received 1,200 shots from the Boone County Health Department in Illinois and administered them to about a third of its workforce at its Belvidere Assembly facility. But it didn’t set a plan to manage the shots beyond that either.

“We have no control. Like everyone else, the state and local governments determine when and how many, ”said Jodi Tinson, Stellantis spokeswoman. “We’re working with Boone County to get a second dose for the 1,200 people who got the first shot. You have to decide for yourself when you have more for the rest of the system. We are waiting.”

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“Cars caught”

Despite their hold-on pattern, automakers are aggressively turning to government leaders almost daily for a vaccination agenda and intelligence on the government’s sales process.

The companies continue to work on a variety of options for delivering the vaccines to employees who choose to do so once the drug becomes available. Think of it like company-sponsored flu shots.

But with these COVID-19 footage so scarce, the time span for their arrival extends further into the year. The recent winter storms that have devastated much of the country are of no help. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe the winter storms will cause long-reaching delays in vaccine deliveries in the next few days.

“Even President Biden had to back off to say anyone could get a vaccine by spring. Now he says summer, “US Representative Debbie Dingell told the Free Press. “So the cars are caught like everyone else. There is a supply problem. “

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (MI-12) speaks to reporters at the 2018 North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center.  in Detroit, Sunday, January 14, 2018.

Dingell, D-Dearborn, works closely with the Detroit automakers. She said she speaks regularly, sometimes daily, to the executives of each company on a variety of topics, with vaccine distribution being a major concern.

In addition to the scarcity of supplies, Dingell criticizes Michigan’s vaccine distribution plan, saying that many elderly people aren’t getting them either.

“We’re working with everyone to get vaccines into people’s arms as quickly as possible,” Dingell said.

The UAW is helping. UAW leaders and the Detroit Three regularly discuss a plan to get the vaccine to all 150,000 union members of the three automakers. However, you will have to wait for several states, including Michigan, for more details on vaccine availability.

“The UAW continues to work with the Biden Administration, the Detroit Three and all of our employers on vaccine distribution plans,” said Brian Rothenberg, UAW spokesman. “These plans will be implemented once the vaccine is available, how much is available from you.” given time and other distribution variables by state. In some cases, like Stellantis / FCA Belvidere, they have already been implemented. “

GM promotes vaccination

For the Detroit Three, all options are available for how the vaccines will be administered as soon as they become available.

GM is working with public health officials to determine availability and priority groups in each state, said spokesman David Caldwell.

In this file photo dated Jan. 28, 2021, a nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Pittsboro, NC, at Piedmont Health Senior Care, a state-qualified health center where PACE patients are underserved by populations receiving the Coronavirus vaccine.  A racial gap has opened in the country's COVID-19 vaccination drive, according to an analysis by the Associated Press, with Black Americans lagging behind whites in many places when they are shot.

“Regional teams are working with health systems, medical suppliers and national pharmacies to deliver the vaccine to employees,” said Caldwell. “GM continues to update employees as we get more information and we encourage all employees to get vaccinated.”

GM is preparing to deliver vaccines in many locations, according to Caldwell. For example, when health officials designate a GM position to receive a vaccine, GM notifies staff and sets up the schedule immediately. The shot would be free for staff, Caldwell said.

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GM is also working on ways to help employees determine when a vaccine might be available at a pharmacy or local health care provider so that an employee can choose to get the vaccine there, Caldwell said. GM works with several pharmacies, including CVS.

“We continue to share information from our Medical Director Dr. Jeffrey Hess on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, including a video series for employees,” said Caldwell. “Among other things, we have published an extensive COVID online Q&A and updated it continuously.”

Line them up, roll them up

Stellantis workers who make the Jeep Cherokee at the Belvidere Assembly in Illinois were some of the first auto workers in the country to receive the vaccine.

Both Illinois and Michigan have classified manufacturing as essential. Unlike Michigan, however, Illinois was ready to move into this phase of the vaccine distribution plan. This is why almost a third of the 3,792 workers in the Belvidere congregation got the shots.

Mark Kreusel, director of the Belvidere assembly plant (right), is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as part of a pilot program launched in Boone County, Illinois on February 2, 2021.

“Boone County let us know when the state entered this stage that they had some allotment for us and could start giving the vaccine to interested workers,” Tinson said.

A clinic near the Swedish-American health system facility is the ideal place to offer the vaccinations, Tinson said.

“We lined up our staff to come in and roll up our sleeves,” Tinson said, adding the shot was free for the workers.

The county gave Stellantis 1,200 vaccines in a pilot program that ran February 2-4.

Stellantis continues to speak to leaders and remains open to a number of options for managing the shots when the rest of the company, including workers in Michigan, will get it.

“We talked to them for a long time. This is part of the process and we have open lines of communication with everyone, “said Tinson.” We are looking into every possibility of giving the vaccine. We are reviewing all distribution options. We could work with our pharmacy partner CVS … or a drive through if we can, these are all options we’re looking at. “

Emphasis on the essentials

Ford had no new development for its plans to help workers vaccinate other than ordering a dozen ultra-cold freezers to hold the vaccines they need.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech, which, based on clinical studies, promises an immunity of 95%, must be stored at around minus 70 degrees Celsius.

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The Dearborn, Michigan automaker is working with government leaders around the world to secure the vaccines, Ford spokeswoman Cassandra Hayes said.

Rox Gatia, Henry Ford Health System's Director of Pharmaceuticals, uses special protective gloves to preview the new So-Low and So-Low Ultra-Low vaccine freezers, which hold the vials of vaccine doses in preparation for distribution.

“We plan to make vaccines available to our employees on a voluntary basis,” said Hayes. “Our initial focus is on key employees in our manufacturing facilities, warehouses, job-dependent employees, and employees who need to travel.”

Ford’s administration of the vaccines will vary by location, she said.

Associate Phoebe Wall Howard contributed to this report.

Contact Jamie L. LaReau: 313-222-2149 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more about it General Motors and sign up for our Cars newsletter. Become a subscriber.