Generally speaking, the city's response to Covid-19 has been seen as a public-health model. Detroit's drive-through testing, and now its vaccination operations, have been widely praised as an efficient use of public resources to stem the disease.
Which makes this week's misstep by Mayor Mike Duggan, who refused a shipment of Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccines, more puzzling.
On Friday, Duggan's team was spinning their explanation of why they turned away, earlier in the week, 6,200 doses of the J&J vax, which the mayor called "very good," but the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer products "the best." Duggan suggested the one-dose shot was better suited for "rural areas," and that Detroit's "finest vaccine infrastructure in the nation" could easily handle the procedures for two-dose recipients.
The J&J product had a lower effectiveness rate than the others, but experts point out that the clinical trials of the J&J product were conducted differently than the other two. Leading experts have said all the shots are effective, and individuals should get the first one offered.
In a statement, the mayor said:
The only reason we chose to not accept the first shipment of Johnson & Johnson was that we had enough capacity with Moderna and Pfizer to handle the 29,000 first and second dose appointments scheduled for the coming week, which already put us very close to our capacity at our current locations.
By Friday afternoon, the White House was responding to questions about Duggan's initial comments, and echoed his clarification:
"We've been in constant dialogue with Mayor Duggan who said, in fact, that was not what he said, and/or however, it was reported. In fact, he's very eager for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And I think we would reiterate the message that for all of us, the first vaccine we have an opportunity to take makes absolute sense to take. So thank you for allowing us to clarify that," (White House COVID-19 response team senior adviser Andy) Slavitt said.
Mayoral spokesman John Roach said the city would set up a separate vaccination clinic for the J&J dose, and offer it to residents as an option.
Detroit journalist Amy Elliott Bragg suggests Saturday in a Crain's newsletter that Duggan needs a "foot-in-mouth vaccine."