A combined effort by East Alabama Medical Center and the cities of Auburn and Opelika has brought a new vaccine clinic to Opelika Road, one that EAMC officials say could double the number of vaccines administered per day.
The clinic, located next to Big Lots in Market Square Shopping Center, will serve the roughly 200,000 people EAMC serves in Lee, Chambers or Macon counties. The rollout of EAMC's new online registration site had a few glitches at first, although 2,700 people were able to schedule a vaccination appointment between Tuesday and next Monday. EAMC is using a five-day "rolling" registration window for new appointments, with new available slots opening each morning at 8 a.m.
"Our hospital team is working with our 3rd party vendor to help ensure the site runs more smoothly,” said John Atkinson, EAMC spokesman. “Our desire is for the process to be seamless, but we ask for your patience as thousands of people in the community are vying for an appointment and it will simply take a while to accommodate everyone due to vaccine limitations.”
The demand for the vaccine will only increase now that the state of Alabama has opened eligibility to those 65 and older. The three counties serviced by the clinic include about 30,000 people who fall into that category, said Atkinson.
“While we are vaccinating other sub-groups who are essential to our community, we know residents age 65 and greater are among the most vulnerable so it’s of the utmost importance that we are able to vaccinate them as quickly as possible,” he added.
Residents of the three counties can register for a vaccine appointment at https://eastalcovidvaccine.com/login. Those scheduled will be required to produce proof, like a utility bill, that they are residents of one of the three counties if their photo IDs indicate otherwise.
EAMC advised that those scheduling appointments make sure that they can also make the follow-up appointment for their second dose, which will be administered at the same time/day three weeks after their first appointment. As of Tuesday, EAMC has administered 12,308 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and aims to hit the 1,000-dose a day mark starting Thursday.
"Now that we are preparing to do 1,000 doses a day, the main concern is a steady shipment of vaccine arriving here,” Atkinson said. “That’s one thing we cannot directly control, but our stream of shipments has been consistent so far and we are very hopeful it will continue."
The Alabama Department of Public Health has also created an online Covid-19 Vaccination Eligibility Check and Scheduling Portal, located at www.alcovidvaccine.gov. Alabama citizens will be able to schedule vaccine appointments through the site, which also features a map of drive-thru and walk-in locations.
In a release, ADPH stated that demand for the vaccine greatly exceeds supply and that many public health clinics will have to focus heavily on administering second doses during February.
The expanded vaccine eligibility in Alabama takes effect on Monday. In addition to opening eligibility to those 65 and older, critical workers will also be eligible. Those workers include first responders, corrections officers, food and agriculture workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, and those workers in manufacturing, grocery store, public transit, education, childcare and the judicial system.
Those who are at high risk for work-related exposure and persons in "identified age groups at risk for Covid-19 associated morbidity and mortality" are also eligible, including those living in congregate settings like homeless shelters and group homes, said the ADPH release, which also asked those people aged 65 and older who are otherwise healthy to consider delaying vaccination so that more vulnerable people can access the vaccine.
ADPH is also holding vaccine clinics at the Lee County Health Department at 1801 Corporate Drive in Opelika from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Vaccinations are only by appointment through ADPH's scheduling number, 1-855-566-5333. Vaccines are free of charge.
Other Auburn area entities administering the vaccine to the general public include American Family Care, Auburn Urgent Care, Thomas Pharmacy, and Oak Park Pharmacy, according to ADPH. Auburn University Medical Clinic also is administering vaccines, although not to the general public at this time.
At EAMC, Covid hospitalizations are at their lowest point since Dec. 28, with 66 patients hospitalized as of Tuesday. The number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 continue to climb in Lee County, which has seen 128 deaths since the pandemic began. Lee County has had 14,048 confirmed cases, with just under 10 percent coming in the last 14 days.