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ADPH addresses COVID-19 vaccine frustrations and delays

Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 at 4:13 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Alabama State Health Officer understands a lot of people are frustrated about getting in line to get their vaccination against COVID-19.

Dr. Scott Harris talked about the frustration and what the Alabama Department of Public Health is facing.

Alabama receives additional COVID-19 vaccines each week. The big problem is it’s not nearly enough to meet the demand of those who are now eligible, let alone being enough for those other groups who want to get in line for the shots.

The latest ADPH vaccine distribution dashboard showed as of Friday, almost 224,000 shots have been given in Alabama out of more than a half million doses received.

“We continue to add new providers every day. People enrolled in the program who are ready and trained to do that and yet don’t have vaccine for most of them.” Dr. Scott Harris, ADPH said.

The state has 883 providers for giving vaccine shots. 364 have gotten supplies in the past, but this week Harris said there is only enough vaccine for 117 providers. The health department has added 75 years old and older, but many are pushing for 65 years and older which would mean another half million people.

“Adding hundreds of thousands of people to the lines we have already without any additional vaccine, it’s going to be a difficult situation for everyone and certainly cause a lot of frustration with people,” Harris said.

Dr. Harris is encouraged by the push by President Biden’s administration for a million shots a day, but the state only gets about 50,000 or 60,000 doses a week. Alabama and other states will need a lot of help.

“Clearly, we have to have more vaccine. Hopefully, we are going to see manufacturers ramp up their production,” Harris said.

Harris said pharmaceutical manufacturers expect to increase their production. Alabama is still trying to vaccinate all folks in the 1a group, which includes healthcare workers most exposed to COVID patients.

Alabama has a growing list of groups providing the vaccine. Still, the state is limited on its vaccine supply. Remember when the Trump administration’s Health and Human Services wanted states to start dipping into those reserves for second doses of vaccines as a way to vaccinate more people?

“That’s a really big decision to make. We are not going to make it alone here. These vaccines are two shots regimens. They went through an approval process,” Harris said.

Harris said the state is waiting on further guidance form the federal government and the CDC. Harris said there are 3.9 million adults in Alabama who need to get those shots. That will require nearly 8 million doses.

“Clearly, we have to have more vaccine. Hopefully manufacturers will ramp up production. Clearly we have to have more vaccine products out there. A one shot like J and J would help with that,” Harris said.

Johnson and Johnson is hoping to get approval soon on their vaccine, which only requires one shot. Without more vaccine or vaccine choices, expanding to more people getting shots will be difficult.

“Without an increase in the order of magnitude of the vaccine shipped to the state, it’s going to take a long time to cover those numbers,” Harris said.

Harris and the health department had been saying late spring or early summer would be the time most folks would be getting the shots. But now, Harris says it’s more than likely summer at the current rate.

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