Etowah County Leaders pushing to get more COVID-19 vaccines

Etowah County's vaccine problem

ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - Etowah County leaders are trying to figure out why they’re not getting more COVID vaccine doses after they say the state told them don’t expect more shipments until possibly March.

“We have a second dose vaccine clinic set for tomorrow, but after that there are very minimal first dose opportunities,” said Deborah Gaither, Gadsden Etowah County EMA Director. “We were told it would be like that during the month of February. We could potentially get more vaccine in March.”

Gaither says that update from state this week caught her off guard, especially since the health department had vaccine clinics set up to serve over 1,000 people next week. The majority of the people coming to get vaccinated were teachers.

“They’re saying at the state level they don’t have it to give,” said Gaither. “But then in the same breath say our neighboring county - Calhoun County - is opening a regional clinic where they’re going to give 5,000 doses a week.”

Gaither says she doesn’t want to slight any other counties, but she also wants Etowah to get its share. She says she also doesn’t understand how there are no doses to give if the state is broadening shot eligibility.

The state responded to our questions saying:

“The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reports that vaccine supply in our state remains limited. Vaccine is allocated to Alabama by the federal government. Counties receive their distribution of vaccine based upon the federal micro planning tool, Tiberius, which takes into account population of the county, including high risk demographics such as healthcare workers. Etowah County Health Department will continue to vaccinate based upon supply of product. However, at this time, Etowah County Health Department only has vaccine to administer second doses. Vaccine distributed for Etowah has been used in Etowah COVID-19 vaccine clinics and not for any other clinics outside the county.”

Some county leaders say even though Etowah County is small, community spread is a big issue.

“They’re looking at numbers, but I think you need to look at who is infected and what’s the best way to slow this thing down,” said Commissioner Joey Statum.

County leaders said they reached out to the state again Wednesday for clarity and also reached out to state lawmakers to see what can be done.

We also reached out to the Etowah County Schools superintendent about the impact for teachers. He said his principals were meeting Wednesday afternoon to figure out next steps to get the roughly 40 percent of school staff vaccinated who said they wanted the shots.

The county EMA is directing people to local pharmacies now that still have dose availability.

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