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State Health Officer Dr. Harris gives update on vaccine distribution plans in Alabama; Says there’s ‘optimism with the rollout’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris provided details on the state’s distribution plans for the vaccines that are expected to be imminently approved by federal regulators.

Harris spoke alongside Governor Kay Ivey at the same briefing in which Ivey extended Alabama’s mask mandate until January 22.

After acknowledging Alabama is experiencing record coronavirus numbers, Harris noted, “We do have some cause for optimism with the rollout of the vaccine.”

“Alabama will probably receive a vaccine product early next week,” relayed Harris at the briefing in the state capitol on Monday.

“We have a lot of confidence in the safety process” that federal regulators have in place, Harris added.

Pfizer’s vaccine is the first expected to arrive in Alabama, per Harris, with Moderna’s around one week later.

Alabama has been allotted 40,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, a product the comes in batches of 950 shots. It will be shipped to “about 15” hospitals in the state  that have the capability to store the product at the very low temperatures it requires, according to Harris.

A list of the hospitals will be made public soon, according to Harris. Some, such as UAB Hospital and Huntsville Hospital, have already been confirmed as locations. The facilities receiving the batches need to distribute them within 10 days, per Harris, for the treatments to be optimally effective.

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are given in two shots adminstered a few weeks apart. In the case of Pfizer’s vaccine, the gap is around three weeks.

Harris said that next week when the doses arrive, all 40,950 doses will be given to individuals, with the expectation that their second dose will arrive in the coming weeks.

Healthcare workers at high risk for exposure will be the first to receive treatment, as they are in what Harris called the state’s “top priority group.”

The total number of healthcare workers in Alabama is around 300,000, but Harris said that number will be sectioned off according to “prioritization of risk.”

“Those really on the front lines and facing the most risk will be the first” to get the vaccine, according to the state’s top infectious disease official.

The other section of the public in the “top priority group” are residents of nursing homes, which have made up more than a third of the state’s coroanvirus deaths.

Harris said Wednesday that nursing homes will get their first doses from among Alabama’s second allotment, around one week after the first people in Alabama are treated with the vaccines.

“There is just not going to be enough, there is going to be a scarcity of vaccine,” warned Harris on Wednesday. “That is going to continue for a while.

Some on the “very tip top of our priority list” still may not get vaccinated in the initial round, he added.

“It is likely to be early summer before we have enough for the average Alabamian to receive their vaccine,” Harris stated.

No money will be paid out of pocket by any Alabamian who wants the vaccine, promised Harris, who clarified that some providers have been cleared to charge an administrative fee to insurance companies or Medicare as long as no cost was passed along to the public.

Harris also promised that no mandate will come down from the government forcing individuals to get the vaccine, and none had ever been considered.

“We still have some tough weeks ahead of us, but I know we can get through it together,” the doctor said in conclusion.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: [email protected] or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

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