The race to distribute and receive COVID-19 vaccines has left many providers frustrated and citizens confused, while some distribution sites are hitting their stride.
Last week those in the first group to be vaccinated – first responders and individuals ages 75 and above, spent the night in cars parked across from the Daphne Civic Center in an effort to be first in line when the que opened the next morning. When traffic became heavy during the clinic, some frustrated attendees threatened to injure Daphne officers managing the flow.
At Infirmary Health Clinics in Fairhope and Bay Minette the lengthy wait is at home where patients wait in a phone que to book an appointment.
Across the bay, USA Health has created an online portal where patients can sign up to receive a notification once they qualify for the vaccine and be placed on a waiting list and then an appointment.
The varied responses have left some in the first vaccination round of eligible recipients searching for the shot.
Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that Alabama is among the last states to succeed in the effort to vaccinate residents.
As of 6 a.m, Jan. 25, a total of 41,418,325 vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S., and 22,734,243 have been administered, or 54.89 percent. That means about 6.93 percent of the U.S. population has been vaccinated. Additionally, 19,252,279 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, and 3,346,390 have received the full two doses.
In Alabama, as of Jan. 27, 254,959 of the 569,000 doses distributed to the state have been administered meaning 44.81 % of the state’s total supply has been given. Alabama ranks 49th in the nation for inoculations when ranked by the percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered.
Hawaii is the only state that ranks lower than Alabama in the percentage of vaccines distributed.
These rankings change daily and track the percentage of received vaccines given and overall number of vaccines given in total. Larger states often have lower percentages but higher overall numbers. California had been trailing Alabama in the percentage of people who have received a dose, but that state has put shots in millions more arms than Alabama. California has given more than 2 million people the vaccine while Alabama has vaccinated only 250,612 citizens.
Dr. Daren Scroggie, chief medical informatics officer, Infirmary Health, said the percentage of vaccines given is the more important number to track.
He said some states may be holding vaccines in reserve to give a second dose to those individuals who have already received their first in the two-shot series. This type of distribution makes the overall situation harder to read via numbers since the state’s distribution is not lacking but rather the numbers change slowly with the choice to divide the supply of shots to two per recipient.
Scroggie said he personally prefers all shots be administered and states rely on the drug companies to continue to meet the demand.
Scroggie also noted that there have been some technical difficulties with Alabama’s reporting system communicating with computer systems at the national level.
Locally Scroggie said facilities in Baldwin and Mobile counties are giving every shot they have.
“I think it’s going well,” he said. He noted that the slowest part of Infirmary Health’s process is the 15 minutes people must wait after receiving the vaccine to watch for reactions.
“We’ve gotten really efficient and we’re excited about being able to deliver the vaccine,” he said.
Other vaccination sites in Baldwin County have overcome bumpy starts in the process.
The Alabama Department of Public Health, Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency and the city of Daphne had a vaccination clinic at the Daphne Civic Center for four days between Jan. 19 and Jan. 28.
On Jan. 19, 410 vaccinations were given. On the second day, additional staff members were brought in and that total doubled, Jenni Guerry, deputy EMA director, said.
“Last Thursday, the final count was 950,” she said. “We give the 800 registration cards, but there is an allotment set aside for first-responders and health-care workers, but the 800 is what is set aside for the general public.”
She said Tuesday that at least 800 patients are expected to be vaccinated that day and the final day of the clinic on Thursday.
“Things have flowed very well and we fully anticipate reaching that goal of 800 plus vaccines administered today,” Guerry said.
The ADPH plans to conduct another vaccine clinic at OWA in Foley on Feb. 2 and Feb. 4 depending on vaccine availability.
Three other healthcare providers in Baldwin County received doses of the vaccine.
South Baldwin Medical Center received an unspecified number of doses and only had enough to inoculate frontline healthcare workers and employees. A recent Facebook post by the facility said SBRMC had not been allocated additional requested vaccines by the Alabama Department of Public Health.
At Fairhope Pediatrics, about 100 doses of the vaccine were distributed about two weeks ago. Office staff members do not know if any other doses will be available. Vaccinations were given to health care workers and some doses left over were given to individuals who qualified for inoculations because of their age.
American Family Care in Orange Beach received an unspecified number of doses and refused to answer media questions about how the vaccine was distributed.
Many providers said the process has been streamlined through trial and error as the distribution was managed and planners fiddled with the best way to sign up recipients.
Hannah Peterson, Infirmary Health director of marketing and community relations, said naysayers should remember that organizations are learning as they go.
“I think we are just trying to do everything we can to get the vaccine and create process that is seamless. We don’t want to burden people with the additional stress of not knowing where they are going or having to wait in line.”
Guy Busby, Melanie LeCroy and Jessica Vaughn contributed to this story