Op-ed: Alabama physicians face challenges head-on during vaccine rollout
By: John Meigs, Jr., MD, President – Medical Association of the State of Alabama
Because of a seemingly slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, physicians have started to hear many concerns from their patients. Understandably, the people of Alabama are growing more eager each day to get vaccinated. Physicians were privileged to be included in the first tier of vaccine recipients and remain our patients’ biggest advocate for vaccination against the Coronavirus.
In addition to issues like staffing shortages, a major obstacle we face is the fact that from week to week, our practices and hospitals are not alerted to when we are getting more vaccine or exactly how many we will receive. Even the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has no input into the quantity allocated and is typically notified less than 24 hours before the vaccine is shipped. This makes it extremely difficult to set up vaccination and follow-up appointments.
It’s tempting but comparing Alabama’s response to surrounding states doesn’t necessarily make sense. The number of COVID-19 vaccine doses allocated to Alabama is based on our population, and is not determined by how much vaccine is on hand in the state. The number of doses remaining from previous allocations does not affect the number of doses that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorizes for Alabama.
Alabama still faces struggles in figuring out the logistics of vaccine distribution and allocation but there are a few things your physician wants you to know about the process.
- The Federal Government determines the quantity of vaccines that are allocated to the state.
- There is a shortage of available vaccines in Alabama.
- There are 326,000 healthcare providers, nursing home residents, law enforcement officers, firefighters and 350,000 persons 75 years of age and older that are currently eligible for the vaccine.
- The number of first doses of the vaccine shipped to Alabama per week only averages around 50,000 to 60,000.
Wide distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine will take time. While we are anxious for the vaccine to be made available to all Alabamians, physicians also want to urge you to wait until you fall into the appropriate tier. As of January 28th, Alabama is administering vaccines to healthcare workers, residents and staff in long-term care facilities, first responders, and individuals 75 years of age and older.
We know vaccines are the best bet to slow this pandemic down and get enough folks immunized so the virus won’t spread as easily. However for now, even after we get vaccinated, we need to continue to wear masks and physically distance. We want to protect folks from a disease that can be very deadly. If we all work together, we will be that much closer to getting life back to normal.