By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama officials said Tuesday the state will see a slight increase in COVID-19-vaccine doses coming in federal shipments, but the ongoing shortage remains the chief obstacle to getting more people vaccinated.
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. is boosting deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks to increase vaccinations. The increase would be about 16%.
“I’m pleased that Alabama will receive a slight increase in our vaccine supply. Any margin of increase is appreciated, but we have a long way to go to be able to provide them to any Alabamian who wants one,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday.
State Health Officer Scott Harris said he was informed Tuesday that Alabama will receive an additional 10,000 first doses in its upcoming delivery. The state had been receiving about 50,000 to 60,000 first doses each week but will see that jump to 70,000 doses in coming weeks, according to numbers supplied by Harris. The number does not include second doses. Harris said it is unclear if the increase will be sustained longer than three weeks.
“Along with Dr. Harris, I’ll continue to advocate to our federal partners that we must be more efficient in shipping these to the states in order for us to get shots in arms,” the governor said.
Ivey participated in the National Governors Association call Tuesday with officials in the new administration, including Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator. Ivey said the state will also have the flexibility to redistribute unused doses in the federal program to vaccinate nursing home residents.
Harris said he was happy to have the increase. The state had been expecting 112,000 weekly doses based on initial conversations with federal officials last year.
“Yes, it is less than the original 112,000 amount we had expected, but we are glad to see any increase at all,” Harris wrote in a message to The Associated Press.
Harris said Friday that the state has approved nearly 900 pharmacies, doctors’ office and other locations to distribute the vaccine, but 500 sites have not distributed any because the state doesn’t have doses to give.
According to state numbers, Alabama, which has a population of nearly 5 million, has had 523,000 doses delivered to the state, including those designated for nursing homes. There are more than 600,000 people currently eligible for vaccinations, including health workers, first responders and people 75 and older.
“Every state had the idea that they were going to get much more vaccine than they ultimately got,” Harris told reporters during a Friday briefing. “I assume this is related to optimistic projections and the inability of manufacturers to keep up that … There just wasn’t enough vaccine to go around.”
The vaccine rollout has been met with frustration. A state hotline for appointments with more than a million calls in its first day of operation.