Huntsville, Madison County officials discuss COVID-19 vaccinations

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Officials said Thursday that COVID-19 vaccinations have slowed, and more people need to get the shot to help keep the disease at bay.

Huntsville Hospital Senior VP of Operations Tracy Doughty said the hospital would begin vaccinating the first children eligible for the Pfizer vaccine at John Hunt Park on Friday morning. The vaccine was approved this week for children ages 12 and older.

Doughty said the vaccines appear to be working, and no one who has been fully vaccinated has been hospitalized for COVID-19.

“Nobody’s been sick enough after their two vaccines to be hospitalized,” Doughty said. “We’re proud to say the vaccines are working well.”

44 percent of the population over the age of 16 has received a first dose of the vaccine, and 35 percent has been fully vaccinated, Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency Director Jeff Birdwell said.

But Birdwell acknowledged participation in recent vaccine clinics has been down, and he wants people to understand they may not be high-risk, but they still run the risk of being infected.

“And I think the thing people have to understand is even though you’re not high risk, the problem with the virus is every time an infection takes place, it has the opportunity to mutate,” Birdwell said. “And I think the big concern out there right now is do we let it mutate enough to where the vaccines are not effective anymore? So it really is kind of a race. Whoever gets there first wins.”

More than half of the Madison County people who have gotten vaccinated are age 55 and older, Birdwell said. He said he believes going forward it’s important for younger people to get the vaccine.

Doughty said anyone with a child weighing whether to get the vaccine should consult the child’s pediatrician and discuss the pros and cons of vaccination.

“Studies say it’s safe and effective in that age group,” Doughty said. “But again, like wearing masks, at some point it’s a personal choice and they have to do what’s best for their family. We would encourage it, but it’s their choice.”

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