By Jon King /

The Livingston County Health Department has announced expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination.

Vaccination appointments are now being offered to individuals ages 16 and over for the Pfizer vaccine and those 18 and over for the Janssen and Moderna vaccines. Individuals under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian present at their appointment. Also being offered are appointments for those diagnosed with a pre-existing condition that increases the risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19 or disabled as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Although eligibility has expanded, local health officials say Livingston County will continue to prioritize residents based on the highest risk, including older residents, those with underlying medical conditions, and frontline/essential workers. It was also noted that there is an ongoing increase in COVID-19 cases and the test positivity rate in Livingston County, with residents urged to use all effective prevention strategies, including social distancing, washing hands frequently, wearing a face mask around others, and remaining at home if sick.

Meanwhile, state health officials have responded to a report in the Detroit Free Press which indicated 246 fully vaccinated Michiganders contracted the coronavirus from January to March, while three have died.

MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin told WHMI that of the 246 potential "breakthrough" cases, data on 129 of the cases was incomplete, with local health departments "either early in their investigation or have yet to begin their case investigation." Sutfin added that they expect to see breakthrough cases with any vaccination and that as more than 1.7 million Michigan residents have already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, this latest report represents just .0001 percent of those vaccinated and are "not in excess of what might be expected with vaccines with 95% efficacy."

She said the three deaths were all in individuals age 65 and older and two were within three weeks of completion of vaccination. "While the majority of the population develops full immunity within 14 days of completion of their vaccine series," Sutfin continued, "a small proportion appear to take longer to mount a full antibody response. CDC is actively working to better understand the risk characteristics of this group."

Sutfin said it was important to reiterate that, "while the overall numbers of potential breakthrough cases are low, the proportions of those symptomatic, hospitalized, and who died are all lower than those who are unvaccinated," and that "Studies indicate that even if vaccinated people do become ill, they are far less likely to experience severe illness requiring hospitalization or resulting in death."