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Feds tell states to vaccinate people 65 and older, AL leaders say there’s not enough vaccines

Alabama begins vaccinating people 75 and older but state health leaders say, “We need more vaccines.”
Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 4:54 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - More than 900 people showed up to the Anniston City Meeting Center within hours of the Calhoun County EMA announcing COVID-19 vaccines were available for people 75 and older. In Shelby County, 200 doses of the vaccine didn’t last long when vaccinations were open to the same age group. The Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) COVID-19 vaccine scheduling hotline received more than one million calls in its first day of operation.

“The demand is greater than the supply,” said Dr. Karen Landers, (ADPH).

Much greater, she added.

COVID-19 vaccinations for people 75 and older began statewide on Monday as ADPH moved into the first part of Phase 1b of the Alabama COVID-19 Vaccination Allocation Plan.

Alabama’s plan closely follows recommendations given by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), but last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said states need to begin vaccinating people 65 and older.

READ: US shifts to speed vaccinations; won’t hold back 2nd doses

“We understand the need for persons in the 65 and above age group to be vaccinated, we understand that persons with chronic health problems need and want this vaccine and certainly we are trying to manage the allocation to reach as many people as we possibly can given the overall amount of vaccine that is out there for the state of Alabama at the moment,” said Dr. Landers.

Between healthcare workers and people 75 and older, ADPH estimates there are 676,000 Alabamians currently eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. If Alabama expands vaccinations to people 65 to 74, that’s an additional 500,000 people, according to data from the US Census.

As of Monday, Alabama has only received 379,000 doses of vaccine. About 40-percent of those doses have been administered.

“The next step is going to be determining how far we spread the vaccine we have over a larger group of people recognizing that’s going to diminish the overall numbers of highest risk person that we can vaccinate,” said Dr. Landers.

The federal government was initially allocating vaccines to states based on population, but Secretary Azar said states’ allocations will soon be based on how well they’ve administered the doses they’ve already received.

“If you are not using vaccines that you have the right to, then we should be rebalancing to states that are using that vaccine,” said Secretary Azar.

Dr. Landers said ADPH is evaluating what’s needed to expand vaccinations and speed up the process.

“At the end of the day, in order to vaccinate more people, we need more vaccine,” she said.

READ: State health leaders say vaccine rollout is too slow

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