Arab, Guntersville city councils approve funding for COVID-19 vaccination nurses

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MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala.- As more COVID-19 vaccines become available for Alabamians, a new struggle appears: having enough staff to administer it.

However, the City of Arab is among many others in northeast Alabama that are planning to help fill those gaps.

Thousands in Marshall County are currently eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine under the Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) Phase 1A and 1B vaccine roll out plan.

The number will grow once the ADPH opens it up to other groups.

“Our goal is, as vaccine is available, to have vaccination clinics on a continuing basis preferably five days a week so that people can walk-in, get vaccinations and we’ll be responsive to all counties,” said ADPH Area Administrator Judy Smith.

Smith told News 19 the biggest issues the state is seeing is vaccine availability and the staff to administer it.

So, the agency sent letters of consideration to every commission and city council in Smith’s entire 12-county area asking for financial help to solve staff shortages.

“Everybody was in agreement that we’d be happy to support that activity but it boils down to, it’s not really an issue of numbers of people to get vaccinations, it boils down to where there’s not a supply of the vaccine available,” explained Arab Mayor Bob Joslin.

Joslin said he was curious why the federal CARES Act did not provide the funding for additional nurses.

He met with Smith and local legislators State Senator Clay Scofield, State Representative Kerry Rich, and State Representative Wes Kitchens Wednesday for further discussion.

Rep. Rich was in the meeting via video chat.

“If they can get suitable numbers of the vaccine that can be distributed, we’re all willing to step up and make that happen because we want to protect the people of Marshall County,” added Joslin.

Smith told News 19 four nurses were hired with CARES Act funding  but they are spread across her 12-county district.

“That was testing processes, it was the ability to respond to other outbreak considerations whether it was E. coli or whatever else, and then to do vaccinations. There is no way that four nurses can provide ongoing vaccinations in 12 counties on a continuing basis. They can’t even do one county a piece,” explained Smith.

The $88,000 expense to add the equivalent of four full-time nurses for six months would be split between Marshall County and every city in the county.

The cities of Arab and Guntersville and Marshall County Commission have approved a resolution to provide the funding at their meetings on Tuesday. 

Joslin expects Albertville, Boaz, Douglas, and Grant to do the same at their upcoming meeting.

Smith spoke with city leaders in Jackson County Thursday to express the financial needs for nurses in the Scottsboro area as well.

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