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ADPH expands vaccine distribution

The Alabama Department of Public Health announced Friday morning that seniors 75 and older, as well as firefighters and law enforcement officers, would be eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in the coming week. It wasn’t long before the department was begging for people’s patience and cooperation as the immediate response began to overwhelm healthcare workers across the state.

The ADPH issued the following plea Friday afternoon, after opening vaccine appointments to senior citizens Friday morning:

“Please do not call your local hospital directly to set up appointments to be scheduled to receive your COVID-19 vaccine.

“We have learned that hospital switchboards are being overwhelmed with phone calls, which is creating an obstacle to patient care. Hospitals throughout Alabama are overwhelmed in providing care to both COVID-19 patients as well as responding to all other medical needs of our citizens.

“While hospitals in a few areas of the state have begun vaccinating those 75 years of age and older, most are still working to make sure their frontline workers are vaccinated.

“Additional information will be provided when hospitals and locations other than county health departments have vaccine available for additional groups.”

Emphasis on getting the vaccine to frontline workers remains paramount, even as the ADPH begins expanding appointments to seniors. The addition of seniors is not a full expansion into the next phase of the vaccine rollout, according to the ADPH.

“I appreciate the swift work of ADPH to establish a system to efficiently provide our limited resources of vaccine to as many Alabamians as possible,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “We have previously worked to provide vaccines to our healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the pandemic and now are diligently working to expand access to our seniors, law enforcement officers and various members of our first responders.”

Two vaccines have been authorized for emergency use by U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA): the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is a two-dose vaccine shown to be 95 percent effective, and the Moderna vaccine, also a two-dose vaccine, shown to be about 94 percent effective, according to the ADPH.

According to the ADPH, Alabama continues to vaccinate more than 326,000 healthcare workers and nursing home residents who are most at-risk of contracting COVID-19. As the vaccine uptake for this category is satisfied, ADPH is beginning encouraging sites to vaccinate people in the 75-plus age group and those in the law enforcement and firefighter vocations – with an eye toward preventing any loss of vaccine because cold chain storage requirements.

“We recognize that demand for vaccine exceeds supply,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. “While there is still an insufficient amount of the vaccine supply, we want to maximize our resources to help protect Alabamians at high risk.

County health departments, Scott said, are working with local distribution points to assess what their vaccination reach has been.

“Decisions about the next groups to vaccinate are made at the community level with community engagement,” Harris said. “If the very high-risk population has been covered adequately, providers can then begin vaccinating people in the other priority groups.”

Nearly 350,000 people in the state of Alabama would qualify for a vaccine at 75 years old and older, according to the ADPH.

“It is critical for everyone to remain patient; demand is high, and supply is low,” Ivey added. “ADPH and their partners are working around-the-clock to assist as many people as they can.”

According to the ADPH, multiple COVID-19 vaccines are also still under development. Large-scale clinical trials are in progress or being planned for two additional COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

To schedule an appointment for the free COVID-19 vaccination at a county health department, eligible individuals may call the ADPH toll-free phone number at 1-855-566-5333. Telephone calls are answered from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. seven days a week.

According to the ADPH, the hotline received more than 1.1 million calls the first day it was open to the public. “Please do not call the appointment line if you do not qualify to schedule a vaccine at this time,” the ADPH urged. 

Vaccination locations can be viewed at https://go.usa.gov/xARKp, and additional specific information – such as what to bring and what to wear – will be provided when appointments are made.

For information about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit https://go.usa.gov/xARKE.

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