COVID-19 Vaccine: answers regarding vaccination sign-up, underlying health conditions

Questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - We have answers to some of your questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccination clinic expanding Monday at John Hunt Park.

Huntsville Hospital will host the mass vaccination clinic next week as part of a statewide effort to accelerate vaccinations.

Leaders with Huntsville Hospital said to prevent chaos, anyone who wants a vaccine must make an appointment. Thursday morning, hospital staff updated the online form, so you no longer have to be a Madison County resident to make an appointment. Last week, Alabama’s State Health Officer Doctor Scott Harris announced drive thru vaccine clinics would be set up in each of Alabama’s public health districts.

On Monday, Huntsville Hospital will expand the current clinic at John Hunt Park to accommodate the influx of vaccinations secured by the ADPH.

“We will be doing somewhere between 1,500 – 2,000 people a day at that clinic,” said David Spillers. “We feel comfortable we can handle that number of people.”

Doctor Harris said no appointment would be needed, but President and CEO of Huntsville Hospital David Spillers was singing a different tune Wednesday when finalized plans were announced. To utilize the clinic with Huntsville Hospital you must have an appointment.

“The perception around the country with drive thru clinics is they are vaccinating a lot of people. The reality is a lot of those people in line aren’t getting a vaccine. It looks good, but the reality is a lot of those people aren’t getting a vaccine.”

Across the state plans are different for each of the eight health districts. No appointment is needed in Montgomery and plans are still pending in Birmingham. Doctor Karen Landers said she knows of another facility that will require appointments.

“Some of our larger health departments have been able to ensure that they have the appropriate flow of patients. They can prove they are able to socially distance, able to ensure persons have hand sanitizing stations, ensure everybody is wearing a mask.”

The eight clinics statewide have enough vaccines to vaccinate people for next week only. Time will tell if the state receives additional vaccines to continue the large-scale clinics throughout the rest of the month.

“We certainly hope we will get more vaccine; we had been advised we are going to get the additional vaccine for a few weeks but right now we know we are going to get it next week. We certainly don’t want to promise something we cannot deliver.”

More than 1.5 million Alabamians are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. But the state’s active vaccination categories prioritize occupational status and age over those with medical conditions despite the virus being more deadly for those with underlying health issues.

Having an underlying health condition doesn’t mean you move up in the vaccine line. Alabama won’t start vaccinating people with health conditions until we move from Phase 1B to Phase 1C. The timeline for that is still unknown.

The top three underlying health conditions behind the death toll are heart disease, diabetes, and chronic lung disease. The state’s top doctor wants anyone who wants a vaccine to get one but said right now we don’t have enough supplies.

“Alabama is not a healthy state, even at baseline, pre-COVID,” said Doctor Scott Harris. “And when you look at the population of people that have those underlying health problems that put them at risk for serious complications, you’re really talking about more than a third of our state, and really, in some parts of our state, it can be over 40 percent of the populations in certain areas of our state.”

Advocacy groups across the state have asked the ADPH to open the vaccine for those with pre-existing conditions. According to the CDC’s website people with underlying health conditions should be vaccinated in Group 1C after the elderly and frontline essential workers.

General information about COVID-19 is available through the COVID-19 Information Hotline number, 1-800-270-7268, and at alabamapublichealth.gov.

Copyright 2021 WAFF. All rights reserved.