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Alabama expands vaccination eligibility, but supply remains low

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the decision wasn’t easy, as the supply of vaccines is still too low to meet demands.

A provider prepares to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient. (VIA UAB)

The Alabama Department of Public Health on Friday announced that beginning Feb. 8 the state will expand COVID-19 vaccinations to those aged 65 and older, and other frontline workers, including employees in the education sector, grocery store workers, postal workers, correctional officers and others.

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to reporters Friday, expressed concern, however, that the state still doesn’t have enough vaccines to handle the numbers of people who are eligible. 

“Telling hundreds of thousands of Alabamians that they’re not eligible for the vaccine when all the neighboring states are, they’re giving it to those populations, is not a situation that we can sustain forever,” Harris said. “And yet at the same time the math tells us there’s not enough to go around.” 

The federal government has promised the state will get an additional 10,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine for the next three weeks, Harris said, which is in addition to the between 50,000 and 60,000 doses the state was already getting in combined Moderna and Pfizer doses. 

About 700,000 people had been eligible under ADPH’s phase 1a group. Friday’s announcement moving the state into phase 1b expands that number to include 700,000 more people, said state Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to reporters Friday. 

Frontline workers included are:

  • First responders
  • Corrections officers
  • Food and agriculture workers
  • U.S. Postal Service workers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Grocery store workers
  • Public transit workers

Others included:

  • People who work in the education sector, including teachers, support staff, community college and higher education
  • Childcare workers
  • Employees of the judiciary, including but not limited to circuit judges, district judges and district attorneys

Harris said the state will hold drive-thru clinics at eight sites, where plans call for 1,000 vaccinations each day, for five days each week. Those drive-thru clinics are to begin on Feb. 8 in Huntsville, Anniston, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Selma, Dothan and Mobile. 

“County health departments, by and large, are booked through February and March,” Harris said. 

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As of Friday, the state has administered 148,549 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 175,326 doses of the Moderna vaccine. A total of 772,275 vaccines have been delivered to Alabama. 

“We have all been frustrated that the supply of vaccine coming from the federal government hasn’t kept up with the demand,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. “To be blunt, we simply haven’t gotten the vaccine that we’ve been promised, and this has created a major backlog of aggravation. Today’s announcement will ensure that as more vaccine is released, we will have a plan in place to get the vaccine in people’s arms more quickly.”

Healthier people age 65 and older, and workers who fall in these groups, are encouraged to delay their vaccination so that more vulnerable people can get vaccinated ahead of them, according to a press release from Ivey’s office. 

To schedule an appointment for the free COVID-19 vaccination at a county health department, individuals may call the ADPH COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling Hotline at 1-855-566-5333. For general information about COVID-19, the COVID-19 Information Hotline number is 1-800-270-7268. The vaccine providers can be found within the Alabama COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Dashboard at arcg.is/OrCey.

Written By

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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