By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
Alabamians 75 years or older and first responders including law enforcement and firefighters will be able to receive COVID-19 vaccines by appointment starting Jan. 18.
The Alabama Department of Public Health and Gov. Kay Ivey made the announcement on Friday but said the addition of these groups is not a full expansion into the next phase of vaccine rollout.
“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,” Ivey said in a written statement. “We have previously worked to provide vaccines to our health care 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. It is critical for everyone to remain patient; demand is high, and supply is low. ADPH and their partners are working around-the-clock to assist as many people as they can.”
The ADPH said on Friday that their scheduling hotline had already received a massive amount of calls with receiving over 1.1 million calls on the first day of the hotline being open.
The department also said hospital switchboards continue to be overwhelmed which can prevent or delay care for those needing a hospital’s services. ADPH is urging only those who qualify to receive a vaccine call into the department’s hotline and not local hospitals.
Work continues on vaccinating Alabama’s more than 326,000 health care workers and nursing home residents who are in the 1a first priority group of ADPH’s vaccine allocation plan.
As the allocations of vaccines for the 1a group are being satisfied, ADPH is now encouraging sites to vaccinate people over the age of 75 and those in law enforcement in order to prevent any loss of vaccine due to 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 are working with their local points of distribution to assess what their vaccination reach has been. Decisions about the next groups to vaccinate are made at the community level with community engagement. 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, ADPH said.
The other populations included in the 1b priority group are those working or living in congregate settings including but not limited to homeless shelters, group homes, prisons or jails.
So far, 42,810 vaccine doses have been allocated from Alabama’s 226,250 allocated doses, according to ADPH’s vaccine distribution dashboard.
To schedule an appointment for the free COVID-19 vaccination at a county health department, individuals may call ADPH’s toll-free number, 1-855-566-5333. Telephone calls are answered between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. seven days a week.
Vaccination locations can be viewed at this link, 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.
If wanting to be vaccinated at sites other than a county health department, such as a private provider, individuals should contact those sites directly.
For information about COVID-19 vaccine, visit https://go.usa.gov/xARKE.