HUNTSVILLE, Ala — Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle is hopeful Madison County has topped out on the spike from the holidays; however, he says the community must continue to wear masks and social distance.
"Our goal is to get up to 10,000 vaccines a day,” said Battle. “But it’s a math problem. You've got to look at it. There are 440,000 people in Madison County, so even at 10,000 a week, it's going to be quite a while before we get to the stage where everybody is vaccinated."
Operation Warp Speed is encouraging states to begin vaccinating people 65 and older and those with underlying health problems.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, said, "There was never a reason that states needed to complete vaccinating all health care providers before opening vaccinations to older Americans and other vulnerable populations.”
State health officials say they are reviewing their vaccination plans but are being faced with some challenges.
Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health said, "Supply is an issue. Number of providers certainly that is an issue as well, but at the same time, solutions is what we're about."
Since announcing people 75 and older, law enforcement, and firefighters in Alabama can now be vaccinated, ADPH’s hotline has been overwhelmed with calls. Dr. Landers said people have been able to get through and make appointments, but it has not been able to handle the amount of callers.
"Health departments are booking between 3 and 5 persons in every 15 minute slot. Just in one county health department yesterday, two nurses vaccinated 161 persons," said Dr. Landers.
Initially, there were 100 lines for the hotline and over 160 people were trained to answer phone calls. ADPH is asking for that capacity to be doubled.
Dr. Landers says the hotline is a contracted system and is not run by ADPH employees.
Due to the demand for COVID vaccines, ADPH is developing a way for people to make vaccination appointments online.
So far, 271,925 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been allocated to Alabama. Over 87,000 people have gotten the first dose. Dr. Landers says the supply is far less than the demand even though those numbers seem to show the opposite.
"We have to remember that also includes second doses of vaccines, so everybody that's vaccinated has to get a second dose," said Dr. Landers. "And that allocation is not all in the state of Alabama at the moment."
Dr. Landers says ADPH will not be able to vaccinate every person that wants to be vaccinated because they do not have enough staff. To give vaccines more efficiently, ADPH is working to get more providers, like pharmacies, on board.
"We will rely on community providers being enrolled through our electronic registry, through our imprint system to be able to give COVID-19 vaccines," said Dr. Landers.
Alabama currently has 243 COVID-19 vaccine providers, and out of those, 66 are local county health departments, including the Madison County Health Department.
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