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Alabama ‘might’ get FEMA community vaccination center

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 1:39 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has set up 18 federal pilot community vaccination centers from California to North Carolina with most of these sites able to vaccinate between 3,000 and 6,000 people per day.

Alabama did not qualify for one of these sites during the pilot program, said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, but FEMA is now expanding and scaling these community vaccination centers (CVCs).

“[They] were only going to go to counties that had at least one million residents, that was the cut-off used,” said Dr. Harris.

He continued, “We have actually heard in the last couple of days that it is possible Alabama might be offered one. We don’t have full details on that and we’re not sure how that’s going to work.”

There are five types of CVCs. Type 1 is the largest and can provide 6,000 vaccinations per day. Type 2 is slightly smaller, providing 3,000 vaccinations per day while Type 3 provides 1,000 vaccinations daily.

The smallest centers, Type 4 and Type 5, a mobile vaccination center, provide 250 shots per day. An ADPH spokesman said conversations are ongoing between the state and FEMA about what would be most appropriate in Alabama and while nothing has been decided, he said the smaller sites might make the most sense.

FEMA has launched mobile vaccination centers in dozens of communities across the country with the goal of reaching people who might have mobility issues or limited access to transportation or doctors.

FEMA works with states to pick areas to target using, in-part, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Social Vulnerability Index (SVI). People who are socially vulnerable are especially at risk during public health emergencies, according to the CDC, “because of factors like socioeconomic status, household composition, minority status, or housing type and transportation.”

These factors are measured to create a score between 0 (lowest vulnerability) and 1 (highest vulnerability).

Only 10 of Alabama’s 67 counties are considered to have a low, or a low to moderate level of vulnerability.

CDC SVI Themes and Social Factors (Source: CDC)
CDC SVI Themes and Social Factors (Source: CDC)(CDC)

ADPH has used SVI data to target vaccinations and the Alabama National Guard just launched its mass vaccination effort, bringing vaccines to 24 counties, predominately in the Black Belt.

An ADPH spokesman said there are several areas in the state where a FEMA site would work, but they would be careful not to overlap efforts.

Determining the right location is as essential as working through logistics, said Dr. Harris.

“Some of the FEMA efforts have included supplying staff but not vaccine and that’s clearly not something we’re likely to take up right now just because without additional vaccine, it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “If we have an offer to bring staff as well as federal vaccine then that is obviously something the governor would consider, or we would consider doing. I do know from talking to other states, some of these states that have had these community vaccination centers say they are really resource intensive so the feds bring vaccine and people to give shots, but every other thing falls on the state. You know, including all of the administrative support, and IT support and traffic control and security sites and lots of other things. And so, they are fairly resource intensive on the state even when they come with vaccine, but certainly if we have an offer we are going to seriously look at that.”

ADPH said there is no timeline on when a decision will be made on a FEMA community vaccination center.

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