Where Is The COVID-19 Vaccine And How Do You Get One?

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Solomon Crenshaw Jr., BirminghamWatch

Homewood’s Gerri Aston, 78, gets her initial COVID vaccine at the JeffCo Department of Health.

People 75 years old or older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine now, but arranging to get one can be frustrating and a potentially complicated process.

The Alabama Department of Public Health’s advice is simple. It recommends everyone who is eligible to get a vaccine register through the Alabama Department of Public Health’s phone hotline. But that hotline has been at times overwhelmed. It received more than 1.1 million calls the first day it was open, according to the health department.

The Jefferson County Department of Health has a separate hotline and online registration for people who live in the county.

In both cases, workers from the health departments will call you, find a vaccine for you and schedule the appointment. But there are other places that have the vaccine. In fact, the state health department is offering a first-come, first-serve COVID vaccine clinic in Montgomery on Saturday.

Some doctors have the vaccine, and the Jefferson County health department recommends patients first check with them. Many hospitals and other health care providers also have the vaccine. Generally, they are calling their eligible patients to ask whether they want one. State health officials have urged people not to call the hospitals, to avoid overwhelming those offices, but to book appointments through the vaccine hotline.

Labs and drug stores may have the vaccine. But many of those still are inoculating only people who fall into phase 1a of the distribution plan — frontline health care workers, first responders and persons living in congregate settings, such as nursing homes and homeless shelters.

There are several standing sites for vaccinations in the area. UAB has a drive-thru vaccination location in its Highlands parking deck, the county Health Department vaccinates at its Southside office and is working to establish Legion Field as a 24/7 vaccination site, for instance. But you cannot show up and get a vaccination at these sites without an appointment.

Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Friday that the state has approved nearly 900 sites to distribute the vaccine, but 500 sites have not distributed any because the state doesn’t have doses to give.

The biggest obstacle to giving out the vaccine is a lack of vaccine. In a bit of bright news, if only a bit, the state is getting a slight increase in the number of doses it is shipped per week, up about 10,000 to a total of 70,000 first doses.

“I’m pleased Alabama will receive a slight increase in our vaccine supply,” Gov. Kay Ivey said on her Twitter feed. “Any margin of increase is appreciated, but we have a long way to go to be able to provide them to any Alabamian who wants one.”

More than 500,000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered to the state, and more than 250,000 shots have been administered. But there still are 600,000 people eligible for vaccinations in Alabama.

Vaccine Facts and Contacts

Eligible for the vaccine are those 75 years old or older, frontline health care workers, first responders and people living in congregate settings, including nursing homes and homeless shelters.

A first-come, first-serve COVID vaccine clinic will be held in Montgomery on Saturday. Anyone eligible for the vaccine can visit the clinic at the Montgomery Fire/Rescue Station 9, at 3003 E. South Boulevard, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Photo identification is required. For more information, call Montgomery’s EMA at 334-625-4181.

The state health department’s Vaccine Scheduling Hotline is 855-566-5333. If you get a busy signal, try again at a later time.

In Jefferson County, register to book a vaccine appointment at Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency. Click on the green Vaccine Info Registration button. Or call 205-858-2221.

Your doctor may officer the vaccine. Some hospitals might offer vaccines for established patients.

The state health department has a map of vaccine providers on its Vaccine Distribution Dashboard. Click on the Vaccine Providers tab.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include new guidance from the Jefferson County health department encouraging people to check vaccine availability with their doctor first.

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