Alabama working to speed up vaccine rollout, partnering with Walmart

Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 1:21 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama has partnered with Walmart to help distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, according to State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

“We are very happy to announce that we reached a partnership with Walmart. Walmart pharmacy will begin administering COVID vaccine as well,” Harris said during a news conference Thursday.

Harris said the state is also in talks with another large chain pharmacy. The details on that will be announced later.

The state’s online appointment portal will also be available within the next few days, Harris confirmed. The state announced the portal earlier this week and said it hoped it would streamline the registration process.

Harris acknowledged the issues Alabamians have experienced with calling the state’s vaccine hotline to make their appointments.

“We actually have 165 phone lines that are being answered when people call that number,” he explained. “And yet it has been overwhelmed,”

About 50 percent of callers are people who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, Harris said, stressing to the public not to call if they’re not currently eligible.

Harris said ADPH is working to speed up vaccinations after residents complained of a slower than anticipated rollout process.

“People certainly have a right to expect that we could do things faster. I think we also can do things faster,” Harris admitted. He said the state would implement several things to make sure the process is accelerated.

“Our county health departments, who are doing vaccinations, are under instructions now to do vaccines all day, every day until they run out,” Harris said.

He also stated that facilities have moved personnel to make sure they have people available and that the state is also surveying providers to determine what supply they have remaining and, if necessary, reallocate unused supply to places that need it.

“We’re not going to penalize those folks, of course. But for those who have some vaccine that they’re not giving as quickly as they should, we’re going to move that to another location,” Harris said.

Each provider will be given a week to administer the shipment they’ve gotten. If they do not, the state will decide on whether the vaccine should be sent somewhere else.

Over 500 providers around the state are fully enrolled and eligible to receive the vaccine, but Harris said only half have the vaccine to give at this point. The issue is that the state does not have enough to go around.

The state receives its allocation of vaccines based on population, despite how many people are eligible. That number also includes second doses.

“We certainly understand that the expectation of the public changes when they see these large groups, large clinics going on. We will certainly have those too when we have the ability to do that in a way that actually takes care of those people who need them,” Harris said.

As of Wednesday night, Harris says 202,643 vaccines have been given in Alabama.

Harris did say Alabama’s COVID-19 cases are looking better following the holiday surge.

“I really appreciate what the people of Alabama are doing to try to continue to protect themselves has been a very long road,” he added. “I know people are tired and frustrated and ready to get this behind this. We’re getting much closer, and we asked them to just to please to continue to do those things that we need to do to keep people safe.”

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