Governor Whitmer Announces Bipartisan Protect Michigan Commission to Educate Michiganders on COVID-19 Vaccine

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Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, former Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, Blake Griffin to serve among bipartisan co-chairs

LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-193 creating the bipartisan Protect Michigan Commission within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to help raise awareness of the safety and effectiveness of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, educate the people of this state, and help protect the health and safety of all Michigan residents.

“Right now, we are on the brink of great breakthroughs when it comes to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, and we must begin to educate Michiganders about how important it is that we all get vaccinated so we can eradicate this virus once and for all. That’s what the Protect Michigan Commission is all about,” said Governor Whitmer. “This bipartisan group of leaders is uniquely equipped to help reinforce the importance of everyone getting vaccinated. Until we eliminate COVID-19 once and for all, we must continue to wear masks, practice safe social distancing, and wash hands frequently. Let’s all continue to do our part.”

The Commission will be chaired by: Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II; Former Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley; Chief Medical Executive and DHHS Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun; Detroit Pistons player Blake Griffin; Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, FAAP, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health; SER Metro CEO Eva Dewaelsche; Soumit Pendharkar, MHA, FACHE, Health Administrator for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians; Spectrum Health President & CEO Tina Freese-Decker; and Jamie Brown, Registered Nurse and President of the Michigan Nurses Association. The commission will consist of at least 50 members that will represent the great diversity of our state.

“This year, we have confronted some of the greatest challenges of our generation, and, in every moment, Michiganders have risen to meet these challenges head-on,” Lt. Governor Gilchrist said. “With a safe and effective vaccine on the horizon, the Protect Michigan Commission is bringing our state together once again to ensure that every Michigander has the information and resources they need to get vaccinated at the appropriate time. Our clearest path to healthy communities, a growing economy, and kids learning in their classrooms is through this vaccine.”

“One of the most important things every adult should be doing now is planning for how they will get the vaccine when it becomes available to them. The Protect Michigan Commission will make sure all Michiganders have the information they need to make those plans,” said Chief Medical Executive and MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “As we get closer to distributing a safe and effective vaccine, think about how you can play a role in ending this pandemic. Wear your mask now so you can prevent the spread, and avoid indoor gatherings. 2021 will be the year when Michigan beats back this pandemic, we just have to stay the course.”

The Protect Michigan Commission will serve in an advisory capacity to Governor Whitmer and DHHS, and will, among other things, provide public leadership to elevate and reinforce the importance of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, identify barriers that may impede the acceptance of an approved COVID-19 vaccine by Michigan residents, including identifying areas or groups within this state that are likely to experience vaccine hesitancy, and develop an outreach action plan designed to overcome these barriers. The Commission must complete its work and submit a brief final report to the governor by December 31, 2021.

“If we’re going to ensure that everyone in our state has the information they need to get a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, we must all work together as Michiganders,” said former Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley. “I am grateful for Governor Whitmer’s leadership on this issue, and proud to serve alongside Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and all of these leaders on a bipartisan commission that truly reflects the great diversity of our state. Let’s get to work.”

“I’m honored to have Governor Whitmer call on me to serve on the Protect Michigan Commission and look forward to working with the other co-chairs to raise awareness for how a safe and effective vaccine can help end the coronavirus pandemic,” said Detroit Pistons player Blake Griffin. “I encourage everyone in Michigan to develop a plan for themselves and their families to get vaccinated and protect themselves against COVID-19. In the meantime – remember to wear your mask, practice social distancing and we’ll all get through this together.”

Currently, Pfizer and Moderna have submitted requests for emergency use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Khaldun and her team at DHHS are developing a plan to distribute the vaccine in Michigan, with a focus on our most vulnerable populations, frontline workers, and educators. The initial groups to be vaccinated will be critical workers in our health care systems, including those working in hospitals, first responders, and more.

To apply to serve on the Protect Michigan Commission, visit michigan.gov/appointments and apply by December 28th.