By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
A new call center in Jefferson County has been established to provide information about COVID-19 vaccines.
The Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) and the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency (JCEMA) will provide information through the call center and assist with coordinating vaccination efforts throughout the county.
Individuals or organizations who would like information on the COVID-19 vaccination can dial the Jefferson County United Command Call Center at 205-85VACC1 (205-858-2221). Telephone calls are answered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Language interpreters are available upon request.
The vaccine will be given in phases, according to the Alabama COVID-19 Vaccination Allocation Plan. This plan was developed by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices.
“Phase One vaccination is for health care workers, medical providers, residents in long-term care facilities, and first responders such as police, fire and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers,” said David Hicks, D.O., Deputy Health Officer at Jefferson County Department of Health.
Those prioritized in Phase 2, could include people that are incarcerated, people experiencing homelessness, critical workers, teachers, and those people that are high risk of getting COVID-19 due to their medical conditions (like if you’re 65 years of age and you live in a nursing home), he said.
In December, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Currently there is limited supply of vaccine and doses given to those in Phase One and JCDH will inform the public when it is time to move to the next phase after evaluating whether enough people have been offered the vaccine in the current phase.
Hopefully, a vaccine could mean hospitals and clinics will be fully staffed again, said medical providers.
“Vaccines for health care workers would allow us to maintain a healthy workforce to not only treat COVID related illness but also provide care for non-COVID needs such as cancer in our communities,” said Dr. Ellen Eaton, assistant professor of medicine at UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases.
Despite that, Eaton said it won’t be enough to just vaccinate people who are the most at risk. “More recently, most community spread has been associated with entertainment, travel, and gatherings… Bottom line is that the general public will need to maintain vigilance with current measures.”
Eaton hopes the increasing cases will encourage the community to be more proactive about prevention. “COVID-19 is overwhelming to think about. I’m hoping with new angles and perspectives on encouraging the public, we can get those numbers down. A clear, consistent message will help,” she said.
The growing numbers of cases is a clear reason why residents shouldn’t be afraid of the vaccines, Hicks said.
“We think if 70 percent of people get vaccinated, then 70 percent of people will get antibody protection and that leads to herd immunity which means the virus can’t pass easily to the next person. For example, if I had COVID-19 and you got the vaccine and had developed antibody protection, then I can’t give it to you. The virus wants to get into you but it can’t so it tries to go to the next person and the next and if there is not enough people for it to pass too, coronavirus goes away from a pandemic outbreak level.”
Individuals or organizations needing general information about COVID-19 vaccination in Alabama can visit www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19.