BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabamians 75 and older can now get vaccinated for COVID-19, and Jefferson County health officer Dr. Mark Wilson is encouraging them to do so as soon as possible.
The Jefferson County Health Department and Gardendale High School are serving as a vaccination site starting today. Both are open from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. for vaccinations by appointment only. Wilson is advising people eligible for the vaccine to get it as soon as possible.
“People that are age 75 and over are at really high risk of hospitalization and death,” he said. “And so whenever I hear of somebody in that age group who gets coronavirus, I get really nervous for that person. Most do okay, but a large number of them do get into trouble.”
JCDH opened a call center two weeks ago to allow people to register for vaccinations, and Wilson said they’ve been flooded with calls. That means not everyone will get vaccinated within the first few days. Those who already have registered will receive a notification—via phone, text or email— once a vaccination opportunity becomes available for them. But many people will have to wait.
According to Wilson, Jefferson County has about 43,000 residents age 75 or older, and JCDH’s supply of vaccines is currently limited, so it will take a few weeks for everyone to get the shot. However, there are other options. Wilson said some doctor’s offices and pharmacies will have vaccines, and he expects them to notify their patients and customers. He suggests going with the first option you have.
“Anybody gets the opportunity to get vaccinated, you need to go for it,” Wilson said. “Try to take that opportunity the first time you get one, because you don’t know when that next opportunity will come.”
Wilson and other health experts believe that hospitalizations and deaths will decrease once the 75-and-older population has been vaccinated. But safety precautions will still be crucial.
“When you get vaccinated, you’re not automatically immune,” Wilson said. “People’s maximum immunity or maximum response to the vaccine will not occur until two-to-four weeks after that second dose. So we still have a long ways to go now. And so we’re really urging people to continue to be very careful.”
This morning, the Alabama Department of Public Health released a map of vaccine providers around the state. To register to get vaccinated by phone, the call center’s number is 205-858-2221. You can also register online.