Just days after Alabama’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts were ranked last in the U.S., health officials in the state announced a new policy in an effort to speed the rollout: if providers don’t use the doses made available to them as quickly as possible, the already-limited supply will be removed and sent elsewhere in the state where they can be administered “in a timely way.”
“In response to concerns that some providers are failing to administer their allotments of vaccine on a timely basis, [Alabama Department of Public Health] will begin removing vaccine supplies from providers who are not administering vaccine in a timely way,” officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) said in a news release on Wednesday.
“Unused vaccine will be redirected to other providers who will administer vaccine faster. ADPH is surveying all providers in the state to ensure that all administered doses have been properly reported to us, and to determine whether there is any available vaccine that needs to be redistributed elsewhere.”
Currently, county health departments are required to administer “all inventory of vaccine each week until no vaccine remains,” ADPH officials said.
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“With an understanding that some smaller rural counties may not be able to give vaccine at that volume, ADPH is partnering with community providers to rapidly get vaccine out to the public,” they said. To assist with such efforts across counties, ADPH employees “have been redirected from their existing duties.”
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine tracker shows that Alabama has fallen behind the rest of the country in terms of vaccination efforts, averaging just over 2,800 shots per every 100,000 residents as of Wednesday.
The state, which on Monday opened up appointments for residents 75 and older and first responders in addition to health care workers, has administered some 139,200 of the 483,275 doses distributed, federal estimates also show.
There is a discrepancy between state and federal estimates, however.
The ADPH data dashboard currently shows that more than 200,000 doses have been administered to date.
Alabama health officials said in the news release that the department is working with the federal health agency to “resolve data issues.”
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“Contrary to some reports, the number of unused doses from previous allocations does not affect the quantity of doses that the [CDC] authorizes for Alabama. ADPH is working with CDC to resolve data issues to ensure that Alabama receives credit for every dose administered in the state,” the release reads.
“No vaccine doses in Alabama have been discarded, and allocations are population-based so there is no advantage for residents of larger counties over smaller ones,” they added.
In a statement, Dr. Scott Harris, the state’s health officer, attempted to clarify the “misunderstandings” regarding vaccine efforts in Alabama.
“Every person who receives a COVID-19 shot is deserving of one and will receive it, as we are determined to make sure that no vaccine is sitting unused on the shelf. We are making every effort to get shots into arms as quickly as possible,” he said. “The biggest obstacle to vaccination is still the limited vaccine supply. We are attempting to manage expectations because the timeline for receipt of vaccine has not changed and we cannot give people a resource we don’t have yet.”
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The state’s new policy to speed vaccination efforts follows similar threats made in New York by the state’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor on Monday said that hospitals that have administered their allocated doses quickly will receive more, while those who have been slow to use up their doses will not be allocated additional ones.
“For the lower performing facilities, we are going to give them less, if any, of the new allocation. They’ll all have enough to do their staff, but we want to make sure that the faster facilities — the higher-performing facilities — get more of the new allocation because we want it out the door,” Cuomo said. “We don’t want it sitting on the shelf. So those that can vaccinate faster will get more of the new allocation.”
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.