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Opinion | The COVID vaccine distribution problem in Alabama

“The distribution of vaccines to Alabama will continue to be interrupted until Alabama plays by the rules.”

A provider prepares to administer a vaccine dose. (STOCK PHOTO)

We have always known that distributing the COVID-19 vaccine supply would be difficult, especially in the beginning. While the supply pipeline is definitely an issue, our pipeline in Alabama has a kink.

The distribution of vaccines to Alabama will continue to be interrupted until Alabama plays by the rules. The rule is simple: The CDC will not authorize shipments to Alabama until they know we are using what we have on hand. Our citizens are paying a deadly price.

When CDC looks at our “inventory” we appear to have more doses than we can administer and with the high demand of vaccines nationally, doses are allocated to states who are reporting accurately. In addition, when vaccines are not entered into the registry the order for the second dose is not triggered.

In other words, we must report to the CDC the doses administered in order to get additional doses to the state. Apparently, ADPH is unable to provide all of the following information:

  1. How many doses have we received in Alabama?
  2. How many doses have been distributed to locations around the state?
  3. How many doses have been put into arms?
  4. How many doses put in arms have been reported to the CDC?

In addition, every day, each location should notify ADPH of the number of doses they have remaining on hand. Every day.

If the Alabama Department of Public Health does not know the answer to these questions, then the CDC certainly doesn’t know, and it makes no sense to send additional doses to Alabama.

In a nutshell, ADPH must get every dose that has been administered entered into the registry for the Feds to send us more. While over 200 locations are giving doses, not all are entering them. And to be honest, the doctors, pharmacists, nurses who are giving COVID vaccinations in addition to their daily duties are already doing ADPH’s job, and blaming them for not entering doses into the registry is nonproductive.

The solution seems easy enough. Call all 221 locations and ask for how many doses they have on hand and compare that to what was sent to them. ImmPRINT is Alabama’s version of a statewide vaccine registry, and if those doses are not entered into ImmPRINT, the ADPH should request the patient list and ADPH should enter those doses to get the kink out of our supply pipeline. The ADPH also should exercise the authority to require all locations administering the vaccine to keep the registry current, and not be supplied additional vaccine until they comply.

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Regardless, until we can account for all doses administered, we will continue to have supply issues and the risk in Alabama will continue unabated.

Signed,

  • Senator Jim McClendon, chairman, Alabama Senate Health Committee
  • Greg Albritton, chairman, Alabama Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee
  • Tom Whatley, chairman, Alabama Senate Committee on Agriculture
  • Randy Price, senator, Alabama Senate

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