A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we finally have a vaccine to help fight the coronavirus in our community.
Unfortunately, many citizens are still waiting for their shot.
“Our staff’s calling people (to schedule their shots) as we speak,” said Tracy Doughty, senior vice president of operations at Huntsville Hospital. “We currently have 25,000 people waiting to schedule their first doses.”
The problem is supply. As the hospital awaits vaccine from the state, Doughty is hopeful more people will have the opportunity to get the shot soon.
In the meantime, he asks the public to please be patient.
“As vaccines come online, we’re sure that people in the community will step up and help give vaccines so people will have more than one option for where to get one,” he said.
More to come
In addition to Huntsville Hospital, the Madison County Health Department is administering second doses of the vaccine on Max Luther Drive.
Walmart and Sam’s Club are also offering vaccines at select pharmacies in Alabama and 21 other states. Other pharmacies – both chain and local – may be added soon, according to Assistant State Health Officer Karen Landers.
“Federally qualified health centers will be receiving vaccine from the federal government,” she said. “Janssen (owned by Johnson & Johnson) has submitted for emergency use authorization which, if approved, will allow another product to be available.”
The only COVID vaccines currently approved by the FDA are Pfizer and Moderna. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has a 72% efficacy rate for preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 infection in the U.S., is due for FDA review later this month.
We think we’re in the fourth quarter of the pandemic and we’re about to turn the corner. We can’t let our guard down now,” Doughty said.
Alabama is in Phase 1b of its Vaccine Allocation Plan, which includes persons 65 and older and certain frontline workers. Vaccine supply and uptake among populations will guide when other groups can be added.
Landers urges everyone who is still waiting for their shot to hold on a little longer.
“The Alabama Department of Public Health wants all eligible persons to receive COVID-19 vaccine as soon as supply allows,” she said. “In the interim, all persons should adhere to mitigation standards.”
What can you do?
Whether you’ve had the COVID vaccine or not, Doughty said you should continue taking precautions to protect yourself and others.
That means wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, washing or sanitizing your hands and avoiding crowds when possible.
“We think we’re in the fourth quarter of the pandemic and we’re about to turn the corner,” Doughty said. “We can’t let our guard down now.”
Doughty said most people are cautious in grocery stores and other public places. When COVID spikes happen, it’s usually because people let their guard down around the people they’re closest to.
“They might be your brother or sister, but they still could carry the disease, so we want to caution people to be vigilant all the time,” Doughty said.
Visit the CDC’s website for tips on COVID-19 prevention.
Why it’s important
COVID-19 vaccination teaches your immune system to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. This is important because even though many people with COVID-19 have only a mild illness, others may get very ill, have long-term health effects or die.
There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you aren’t high-risk for developing severe complications. Click here to learn how COVID-19 vaccines work
“Please wear your mask at all times,” Doughty said. “Do your best to stay out of large crowds, and be super safe even around family members who don’t live in your household.”
Earlier this week, Dr. Warren Strickland, a Huntsville cardiologist, and Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, urged Black citizens to take the COVID vaccine when it is available to them. Strickland said that while African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, they have seen a disproportionate number of deaths at 28%.
Daniels, who was diagnosed with the virus on Christmas Eve, said he had “never gone through anything as difficult as COVID-19.”
“If you have access to the vaccine, get it, regardless of your age and background – get it,” he said.
How to sign up
Citizens can check Alabama’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Dashboard to see locations approved to offer vaccine, as they receive it.
Although the Madison County Health Department is only offering second doses now, they hope to have more vaccine by early March. Be sure to visit ADPH’s online portal to check eligibility and make an appointment at a health department in your county.