Why Is It So Hard to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine in Tuscaloosa?
It's officially been a year since the coronavirus began to impact the United States, resulting in over 500,000 deaths across the country and nearly 25,000 confirmed cases in Tuscaloosa County alone.
The hope was that once vaccines started to roll out, cases would see a rapid decline, and they have. Just last week, DCH Regional Medical Center reported they had a total COVID-19 impatiens total of 27, which was down from 69 patients last month.
However, since vaccines have become more readily available, many eligible people have found a lot of trouble scheduling an appointment.
Even as retail stores like Walmart, Sam's Club and many CVS pharmacies throughout the state have started administering vaccines, availability remains scarce. The issue comes with unreliability, in some instances, for the number of doses specific vaccination sites receive.
High demand and an unclear level of supply leave a lot of people feeling like there's no easy way to book their appointments.
"DCH rarely says it has slots available because when we release more, they fill up rapidly without any additional communication," said Andy North, Vice President of Communications at DCH. "Slots fill very quickly, so multiple people are often trying to schedule the same slots at the same time. Inevitably, some don't end up with a spot."
As of last week, DCH had rolled out over 30,000 total doses. Their vaccination site typically gives out 750 doses per day but doesn't expect to accommodate for more with the rollout of Phase 1c going into full effect this week. The new eligibility group is set to include those ages 55 and up, those between the ages of 16 and 54 with high-risk conditions, and certain close-contact workers like journalists, engineers and financiers.
"We do not have plans at the moment to expand that for 1c," North said. "That is the amount of vaccine we have been reliably receiving."
North said something that will help tremendously with a more rapid registration is their partnership with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and Mercedes-Benz USI to provide regular pop-up registration sites for in-person registration. DCH provides the EMA with specific time slots to fill, and EMA employees are present to help those struggling to get through the process.
For some of the most up-to-date information on pop-up registration sites, be sure to follow the Tuscaloosa County EMA for updates.