MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Public Health is urging residents who want a COVID-19 vaccine to stop calling local hospitals.
Telephone switchboards at hospitals across the state are being overwhelmed by people asking about appointments to get the vaccine, but ADPH says these hospitals are not the place to call, and, in doing so, callers are “creating an obstacle to patient care.”
ADPH announced Friday an expansion of the list of people who can get a COVID-19 vaccination, and within hours, the appointment hotline was slammed with 338,000 calls. That doesn’t include data on the number of hospital calls that have been made.
“Due to massive call volume, callers to the COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling Hotline are encouraged to try their call again later if they get a busy signal,” ADPH said Friday afternoon. “We are rapidly adding staff to assist callers and appreciate your patience.”
Starting on Jan. 18, Alabama will give vaccinations to residents who are 75 or older, as well as first responders, including law enforcement and firefighters. These are the only groups added to new vaccine availability group.
That new group would qualify about 350,000 more people for the vaccine. ADPH cautioned the additional number of people who can get the vaccine is not a full expansion into the next phase of the vaccine rollout yet.
Appointments will be at locations around the state on a first come, first served basis.
To schedule an appointment for the free COVID-19 vaccination at a county health department, call the ADPH toll-free phone number at 1-855-566-5333 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. any day of the week. ADPH says additional information will be provided when hospitals and locations other than county health departments have vaccines available for additional groups.
In central Alabama, the following hospitals and clinics have released information about getting a vaccine:
- MainStreet Family Care: Starting Jan. 18, COVID-19 vaccines will be available to frontline healthcare workers, first responders, and patients 75 and older. Detailed vaccination criteria can be found at www.mainstreetfamilycare.com/covid-19-vaccine. MainStreet’s contactless registration system allows eligible patients in need of a vaccine to pre-register online at www.mainstreeetfamilycare.com/online-registration.
- Jackson Hospital has begun online pre-registration for community members 75 years of age or older to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. In conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health, Jackson Hospital will begin scheduling appointments for those interested in receiving a vaccination later this month. Community members 75 years of age or older can visit www.jackson.org to pre-register. Pre-registration does not register nor guarantee a COVID-19 vaccination. A staff member from The Jackson Clinic will begin contacting those interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccination after Monday, January 18, 2021 to schedule an appointment.
- Other current and future vaccination locations can be viewed at this link, https://go.usa.gov/xARKp.
“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.”
ADPH said it wants to prevent any loss of vaccine due to cold chain storage requirements.
Harris said each county’s health department is working with their local points of distribution to assess what their vaccination reach has been and that 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,” Harris said.
Alabama continues to vaccinate more than 326,000 health care workers and nursing home residents who are most at-risk of contracting COVID-19. ADPH said as the vaccine uptake for this category is satisfied, it’s now encouraging sites to vaccinate those above 75, as well as law enforcement and firefighters.
Additional specific information, such as what to bring and what to wear, will be provided when appointments are made.