In recent weeks many of Alabama’s hospitals, especially in metro areas have been dealing with higher and higher caseloads of Covid-19 patients. Former State Health Officer and current President of the Alabama Hospital Association Dr. Don Williamson told one news outlet last week, "I think we are approaching the catastrophe that we've all feared."

Williamson even added that some Alabama hospitals have had to transfer patients to hospitals in neighboring states.

“We’ve seen that in transfers to Florida,” Dr. Williamson said. “We’ve seen that in transfers to Georgia. We’ve seen it in Tennessee and certainly in transfers to Kentucky.”

Late last week the Alabama Department of Public Health announced that COVID-19 vaccination appointments were available for Alabamians 75 years and older, first responders (including law enforcement and firefighters) statewide effective January 18. Eventhough the ADPH notice advised people meeting the criteria for vaccination to call a provided number, within hours it was hospital switchboards that were overrun.

“Please do not call your local hospital directly to set up appointments to be scheduled to receive your COVID-19 vaccine,” came the response a few hours later. “We have learned that hospital switchboards are being overwhelmed with phone calls, which is creating an obstacle to patient care. Hospitals throughout Alabama are overwhelmed in providing care to both COVID-19 patients as well as responding to all other medical needs of our citizens,” the release continued.

“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,” Gov. Ivey said. “We have previously worked to provide vaccines to our health care 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 ADPH says Alabama continues to vaccinate more than 326,000 health care 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,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. “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.

To schedule an appointment for the free COVID-19 vaccination at a county health department, 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. Vaccination locations can be viewed at this link, and additional specific information, such as what to bring and what to wear, will be provided when appointments are made.