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UPDATE: COVID-19 vaccines appointments for some first responders, seniors now available - heavy call volume
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UPDATE: COVID-19 vaccines appointments for some first responders, seniors now available - heavy call volume

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Local healthcare workers receive second dose of COVID-19 vaccine as popularity rises

Emily Joiner, a nurse technician at Southeast Health Medical Center, receives her second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital on Wednesday.

The COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available to seniors 75 and up and first responders, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health and Gov. Kay Ivey.

COVID-19 vaccinations for people in these groups, which include law enforcement and firefighters, will be provided by appointment only effective Monday, Jan. 18.

To schedule an appointment for the free COVID-19 vaccination, individuals may call the ADPH toll-free phone number at 1-855-566-5333. Telephone calls are answered from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Due to massive call volume, callers to the COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling Hotline are encouraged to try their call again later if they get a busy signal, state officials said Friday afternoon.

The hotline has received over 338,000 calls within the first few hours of operation as ADPH rapidly works to add staffers to accept calls.

Later in the day, ADPH asked people to not call local hospitals directly to set up appointments as switchboards are being overwhelmed with phone calls, creating an obstacle to patient care.

“I appreciate the swift work of ADPH to establish a system to efficiently provide our limited resources of vaccine to as many Alabamians as possible,” Ivey said in a statement. “We have previously worked to provide vaccines to our healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the pandemic, and now, are diligently working to expand access to our seniors, law enforcement officers and various members of our first responders.

“It is critical for everyone to remain patient; demand is high, and supply is low. ADPH and their partners are working around-the-clock to assist as many people as they can.”

The addition of these groups is not a full expansion into the next phase of the vaccine rollout, Phase 1b, which also includes workers in education, childcare, specific manufacturing jobs, food and agriculture, grocery stores, public transit, and the U.S. Postal Service.

Alabama continues to vaccinate more than 326,000 healthcare workers and nursing home residents who are most at-risk of contracting COVID-19. As the vaccine uptake for this category is satisfied, ADPH is now encouraging sites to vaccinate persons in the 75-plus age group and those in the law enforcement and firefighter vocations in order to prevent any loss of vaccine due to cold chain storage requirements.

“We recognize that demand for vaccine exceeds supply,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. “While there is still an insufficient amount of the vaccine supply, we want to maximize our resources to help protect Alabamians at high risk. County health departments are working with their local points of distribution to assess what their vaccination reach has been. Decisions about the next groups to vaccinate are made at the community level with community engagement. If the very high-risk population has been covered adequately, providers can then begin vaccinating people in the other priority groups.”

Nearly 350,000 people in the state of Alabama would qualify for a vaccine at 75 years old and older.

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There are several vaccination locations in the Wiregrass:

• Barbour County: Barbour County Health Department, Medical Center Barbour, Mainstreet Family Care in Eufaula

• Coffee County: Coffee County Health Department, Medical Center Enterprise

• Covington County: Covington County Health Department, Andalusia Regional Hospital, Mainstreet Family Care in Andalusia

• Dale County: Dale County Health Department, Dale Medical Center

• Geneva County: Geneva County Health Department

• Henry County: Henry County Health Department

• Houston County: Houston County Health Department, Flowers Hospital, Southeast Health

• Pike County: Pike County Health Department, Troy Regional Medical Center

ADPH and the Alabama Medicaid Agency have received reports of citizens being contacted at their homes for the purpose of being offered COVID-19 vaccinations at home. In addition, individuals claiming to be employees of the Medicaid Agency are contacting recipients by phone or in person and offering free COVID-19 testing.

Harris, Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie McGee Azar and Attorney General Steve Marshall warn that this is a scam and anyone who is contacted about an offer for free in-home COVID-19 testing or vaccinations should immediately end the contact.

The public is encouraged to report such calls to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-5658 or via email to ConstituentAffairs@AlabamaAG.gov.

All vaccination locations can be viewed at this link, https://go.usa.gov/xARKp and additional specific information, such as what to bring and what to wear, will be provided when appointments are made.

If wanting to be vaccinated at sites other than a county health department, such as a private provider, individuals should contact those sites directly.

For information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit https://go.usa.gov/xARKE.

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