State urges all Alabamians 16 and older to get COVID-19 vaccine; Guidance coming for those 12-15; Saturday, get vaccinated and drive your car on the Talladega Superspeedway

The almost 4 million Alabamians who are 16 and older became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines April 5, the governor and state health officer announced April 2.  “I encourage every Alabamian 16 and up to get out and get your shots as soon as you are able,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “The safe and effective vaccines available are our ticket back to normal, and I could not be more optimistic in how we are moving forward.” The state continues to receive between 125,000 and 135,000 vaccine doses each week.

Alabama has plenty of vaccine to go around,”  State Health Officer Scott Harris said April 30, adding that every county has multiple providers. “Everyone who wants should be able to get a vaccine.” As of May 10, more than 1.2 million Alabama residents had been fully vaccinated and 1.5 million had received at least one dose of vaccine. (See CDC guidance for the fully vaccinated). On May 4, the president set a goal for 70% of the U.S. adult population to have one shot and 160 million adults to be fully vaccinated by July 4th. Alabama’s state health office said close to 70% of the state, or 3.5 million Alabamians, will need to either be fully vaccinated or have antibodies from previous infections in order for the state to reach a level of immunity to stop COVID’s spread in our state.

Pfizer has the only COVID-19 vaccine currently approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. NEW: On May 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to those 12 to 15. Once CDC has reviewed and adopted Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices guidance, the Alabama Department of Public Health will follow that guidance. ADPH expects a number of pediatricians in Alabama to participate in vaccination of persons 12 and above with the Pfizer product.

A map of vaccine provider locations is available on the vaccination provider tab of the Alabama COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Dashboard. Appointments can be made directly with private providers, such as pharmacies (348 statewide) and hospitals (99). Check with a provider in your area using the appointment or wait list system they have in place.

Alabama Vaccine Dashboard
Find a provider near you on the dashboard’s provider tab

State Asks Healthcare Providers to Recommend COVID-19 Vaccine

CRITICAL WORKERS
Since Monday, March 22, The Alabama Department of Public Health extended COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to all critical workers (Phase 1C) as well as those age 55 and older. Restaurant workers were included in Phase 1C. Other frontline workers, including grocery and convenience store employees, became eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations Feb. 8.

NEW
Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination for Critical Workers
CDC guidance updated May 6, 2021

Race to End COVID
NEW: From 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday, May 15, those age 16 and older who choose to be tested and/or vaccinated during a drive-thru event at the Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln could get the opportunity to drive their car or truck on the 2.66-mile track, ADPH announced. Drivers 19 and older must have a valid driver’s license, car registration in their name and vehicle insurance. Sixteen to 18-year-olds with a valid driver’s license MUST have his or her legal guardian sign the minor consent form and be in the vehicle with the driver during the laps. Passengers under the age of 19 will need a parent to sign the minor consent form.

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
The Alabama Department of Public Health recommends Alabama providers resume use of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine with a warning for women who are 18 to 49 years old.

Available data show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks,” the ADPH release states. On April 23, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended lifting the April 13 pause in the vaccine’s use.

The J&J vaccine has a very low but increased risk of a rare condition, which involves blood clots with low platelets, for women younger than 50. Women younger than 50 should be aware that there are other COVID-19 vaccine options available in addition to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, ADPH officials said.

Although the side effects of concern are extremely rare, the FDA and CDC recommend that people who develop severe headache or blurred vision, shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, or easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the injection site within three weeks of receiving the J&J vaccine should immediately contact their health care provider and seek medical care right away,” ADPH said. “There have been no reported cases of these side effects in Alabamians.

Community Vaccine Center
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state of Alabama and Jefferson County opened a seven-days-a-week, drive-thru/walk-in community vaccination center April 21 at Watermark Place in Bessemer, FEMA announced. The site had been set to administer up to 7,000 doses of vaccine per week (1,000 doses per day) for six to eight weeks, but has been averaging about 100 shots per day, Harris said. Alabama National Guard personnel are administering the vaccines. No appointments, ID or insurance are required to receive a free COVID-19 vaccination at the center. If you prefer to schedule an appointment at the center, visit myturn.timetap.com or call 205-858-2221.

Federal Retail Pharmacy Program
Since Feb. 11, vaccines have been available at select chain pharmacies and independent pharmacy networks nationwide under a federal program. The independent pharmacy networks include Good Neighbor and Health Mart pharmacies. Check your pharmacy’s website to find out if vaccine is available. Vaccines provided through this federal public-private partnership goes directly to the partner pharmacies and is not part of Alabama’s allocation of vaccines.

Activated CVS pharmacies are now allowing patients to walk in to schedule a vaccine appointment. Eligible Alabamians also can go to the CVS website COVID-19 vaccine page, click on Alabama to locate stores with available appointments, then schedule a vaccine,  possibly as soon as one hour later. Staff will help walk-ins find an available appointment if none are available at that time. Publix also is now offering walk-in scheduling and scheduling vaccine appointments online. Seventy-six Walgreens pharmacies joined the program in late March. Eligible Alabamians can check vaccine availability at a Walgreens near you. The website will prompt you to sign in to or create a Walgreens pharmacy account.  On March 31, 32 Winn-Dixie locations began offering vaccines in Alabama. Some 121 Walmart pharmacies in Alabama have about 200 doses available per store weekly by appointment only. Walmart, which is administering all three available vaccines, is also offering mass vaccine clinics in select counties.

See the Federal Pharmacy Tab on the state’s vaccine dashboard to find a pharmacy in the federal program near you

>> Link to the federal program on the CDC website

National Guard Assists in Equitable Distribution Efforts
ADPH is making a concerted effort to reach vulnerable communities with the state’s vaccine supply.  The effort is intended to reach those at the lowest rank on the Social Vulnerability IndexSince Tuesday, March 23,  Alabama National Guard members have served as vaccinators in 24 mostly rural counties in the Black Belt and Wiregrass areas of the state. Two different, units rotated up to 1,000-dose-a-day walk-up or drive-thru clinics, moving from one county to the next each day, visiting four counties each in a span of four days (Tuesday – Friday). After three weeks of rotating clinics, the units returned to the same locations for second shots. The first-shot clinics ended April 9. The second-dose clinics, which began April 13, ended April 30. Hale County has a second dose clinic on May 6. The second-dose clinics also have doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine available for anyone who has not received any vaccine. NEW: Beginning May 10, smaller National Guard teams will travel to each of the state’s eight public health districts for mobile clinics.

COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENTS
To facilitate expansion of the Alabama Vaccine Allocation Plan, ADPH operates an online portal that allows Alabamians to check their vaccination eligibility and make appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations at county health departments. The department asks that Alabamians cancel appointments at health departments if they receive shots from another provider. The portal also provides up-to-date information about drive-through and walk-in clinics being offered. NEW: Beginning May 3, the county health departments in the southwest part of the state will offer free walk-in Moderna vaccine clinics, no appointment needed. The Jefferson County Health Department is operating a drive-through, appointment-only vaccination sites at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport and the Birmingham Crossplex. The Mobile County Health Department is having second-dose vaccine events May 3 (Alabama Cruise Terminal), May 18 (1st Baptist Church of Mobile) and May 24 (Little Rock AME Zion Church, Grand Bay).

Access ADPH’s Online Portal

CDC U.S. Vaccination Tracking Dashboard

Quarantine for Vaccinated Individuals;  Health Recommendations
On Feb. 19, the state health officer announced Alabama has issued quarantine guidance for vaccinated individuals that corresponds with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control. The state health officer determines the quarantine options for Alabama.

Alabama’s Isolation and Quarantine Timeframes

On Monday, March 8, the CDC issued interim public health recommendations for the fully vaccinated, while continuing to recommend wearing face coverings in public.

The CDC guidance says fully vaccinated people can:

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic

This guidance represents a first step toward returning to everyday activities in our communities,” Alabama health officials said in a statement. The CDC will update these recommendations as more people are vaccinated, rates of COVID-19 in the community change and additional scientific evidence becomes available.

Voluntary or Mandatory Vaccination for Employees?
In a Feb. 4 article, Alabama Retail’s labor law partner, Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson poses some practical considerations for employers considering requiring employees to be vaccinated. Employers generally have a right to require vaccination, but may want to opt for a voluntary program, especially while supply is tight and much of the population is ineligible based on the state’s allocation plan.

On Friday, March 5, the CDC updated its workplace vaccination guidance that encourages free, on-site COVID-19 vaccinations at businesses. It also encourages establishing policies that allow employees to take paid leave to seek COVID-19 vaccination in the community and provide or support transportation to off-site vaccination clinics.

CDC Workplace Vaccination Program

Originally posted at 11:40 a.m. Feb. 2, 2021; Last updated at 6 p.m., May 10, 2021