Jefferson County Health Department shifting bulk of resources to vaccination efforts

Health Dept shifting resources to vaccines

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Alabama Department of Public Health is now requiring all county health departments across the state to shift focus and use all staff members for vaccine work.

Dr. David Hicks with the Jefferson County Department of Health said the Jefferson County health department is an independent health department, meaning they don’t have to follow the state health department.

“We communicate with them regularly,” Dr. Hicks said. “When the state says this is what we are going to do, generally speaking, we do the same thing the state does. But, we can do it in our own way.”

Dr. Hicks said the Jefferson County Health Department is following the state’s recommendation to reallocate resources to vaccine efforts. He said in one week, the Jefferson County health department vaccinated at least 2,500 people between two sites. He said efforts like that can take more than 100 staff members.

“We have employees that are dedicated to doing vaccines all day long,” Dr. Hicks said. “We are still doing our core functions and things that are mandated by law, but we really are shifting as much as we can so that we can continue to provide vaccines. We have reallocated most of our internal resources and efforts to vaccination. Not all of them, but a lot of them.”

Dr. Hicks said this means the health department is offering less appointments in their primary care clinics.

“We can limit appointments on our schedule,” Hicks said. “Still providing access for our patients, but we may not have as many appointments. That means we may be able to take a couple of staff members from that effort and use them for vaccination. We absolutely do need to do this. We are strategic in how we are using the resources.”

Dr. Hicks said they are even scaling back on COVID-19 testing efforts.

“Testing is always important,” he said. “But, vaccinating is more important at this point than testing, even though they are really close to each other.”

The department was offering pediatric COVID-19 testing, but Dr. Hicks said they ended it for vaccine work.

“There’s certain things we stopped doing because we know people can go other places in the community to get that,” Hicks said.

Hicks said with the majority of staff working on vaccinations, the department can vaccinate people faster.

“We could potentially do 3,000 to 4,000 vaccines a day if we had our staff dedicated solely to that purpose,” Hicks said. “We can vaccinate a high volume of people.”

But, Hicks said while using the bulk of resources for vaccinations will speed up the process, it’s still the supply that controls how much vaccine the department can administer.

“As long as we get the vaccine, you’ll see us scale up or contract down a little bit, depending on what we are working with,” Hicks said.

Dr. Hicks said after this week’s vaccinations, the health department has minimum doses left of the vaccine. He said they have ordered more from the state and they will add more appointment slots as they get the product in.

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