Alabama says it is still losing battle of supply vs demand for COVID-19 vaccine

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The State of Alabama reports it has administered more than 223,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, about 42 percent of what its received, representing a small fraction of the 4.9 million Alabama residents.

Both the Biden Administration and the Alabama Department of Public Health said this week they are looking for ways to get more vaccine to people.

But, it’s a complex problem. For instance, the Biden Administration is proposing adding Americans 65 and under to the vaccine eligibility list. That would add about 500,000 people to Alabama’s roster of people who need to be vaccinated — at the time time the state is saying it is not scheduled to see any increase in its vaccine shipments.

“We’ve certainly heard from many people in the public who are angry or frustrated about the vaccine program,” said Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s State Health Officer. “They don’t feel that they understand how they can get a vaccine, or perhaps even where to get a vaccine. I want you to know we hear all of those people who are saying that, and share a lot of their frustration as well.”

Newly-elected President Joe Biden echoed that sentiment this week, saying more needs to be done.

“And while the vaccine provides so much hope the rollout has been a dismal failure so far,” President Biden said.

Harris said he has instructed Alabama’s Public Health Departments to vaccinate, all day, every day, but supply remains limited.

“The only vaccine remaining in county health departments at this point are second doses for people, or in some cases people who have appointments through the rest of the month,” he said.

Alabama now has 502 locations where vaccine can be administered, Harris said, but fewer than half those locations have received any vaccine.

“Alabama hospitals, by and large, are out,” he said. “The only doses they have are those that are remaining for second doses or in some cases appointments for first doses. Every hospital that we have contacted so far has asked for more.”

But, there is no indication that shipment volumes will increase, Harris said, despite calls for expanding the eligibility pool.

“The amount we’re getting in the state each week is not going to change,” he said. “Our allotment is between 50- and 60,000 doses a week. We’ve been told that’s not going to change anytime soon. “

President Biden said Thursday help is on the way, but beating back the pandemic will take time.

“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, it’s going to take months for us to turn things around,” he said.

ADPH says in the next few days its website will, for the first time, allow people to register online to be vaccinated, rather than having to a crowded hotline.

The state is also partnering with Walmart for vaccine distribution in rural areas.

Dr. Harris said the state’s hotline for vaccination appointments includes 165 phone lines, but more than half of the calls they’ve received are from people currently ineligible to receive the vaccine. Currently, only first-responders, medical personnel and people over 75 are eligible to get a vaccine in Alabama.

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