HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Governor Kay Ivey will be ending Alabama's mask mandate on April 9th. Does this mean health organizations are in a race against time to vaccinate as many people as they can before then?
Our team met with the Alabama Department of Public Health and Huntsville Hospital to see if the expiring mask mandate possibly adds pressure to the vaccine rollout.
Dr. Scott Harris tells reporters on a Friday morning press call, “April 10 ought to look a lot like April 9, I hope. I think people ought to be careful. They ought to stay home if they can. They ought to wear masks if they can. They ought to stay out of crowds.”
We asked Dr. Harris if ADPH is feeling any added pressure to vaccinate as many people as possible before the statewide mask mandate expires. He says, “It doesn’t change the fact that we’re really trying to get as many shots as we can in arms every day. We don’t want vaccines on the shelf…”
Governor Kay Ivey has made it clear she doesn’t plan to extend the statewide mask mandate beyond April 9th. Dr. Harris reminds us cities can still establish their own mask mandates.
We checked in with Huntsville Hospital to see how their vaccine rollout is going. Tracy Doughty, Senior Vice President of Operations, says, “We’ll be doing about 500 doses a day for 5 days a week. Monday through Friday next week. Plus we’ll be doing about 500-second doses so we’ll be doing about 1,000 doses a day.
We asked if the hospital administration thinks the demand for vaccines could spike as April 9th approaches. Doughty says, “Yes and no. I think people have already started to sign up for vaccines months ago. We’re 25,000 deep in our list of people who still haven’t received the vaccine. So, we think there were a lot of early adopters in the process. We’re working through that list as soon as possible.”
ADPH has plans to expand the reach of the rollout as well, especially in Black, Hispanic and Indigenous communities that may have hesitancy about taking the vaccine. Dr. Harris tells reporters, “About 100 billboards are going into minority communities. There are yard signs that are going up in communities as well.”
We’re told ADPH met with the Alabama National Guard Friday after the media call to talk about plans to set up mobile vaccination clinics. Dr. Harris says, “At this time the initial concept. It looks like it’ll be two different, separate units. Each giving about 1,000 doses a day. Each moving from place to place in the blackbelt region of the state…”
This plan is still developing. But, Dr. Harris tells us the earliest time these clinics could possibly begin to operate would be March 23, 2021.
For the most up-to-date COVID vaccine information, check out this WZDX story: Alabama COVID vaccine updates