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Vaughan begins second round of vaccinations

Following announcements last week from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) that COVID-19 vaccines would be administered to first responders and seniors 75 or older as the vaccine rollout winds into its next phase, Vaughan Regional Medical Center (VRMC) is among those delivering vaccine locally.

“We can confirm that we are in the process of distributing COVID-19 vaccines in accordance with prioritization guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [(CDC)], the federal government and our state,” said VRMC Chief Nursing Officer Tracy Merry in an email. “We are currently in phase 1B of vaccination, which includes all healthcare workers and persons 75 years and older.”

The local hospital has so far administered 510 vaccines and is expecting a second round of doses to be delivered later this month.

“Once the vaccine becomes more broadly available, we strongly encourage our community to get vaccinated,” Merry said. “Vaughan Regional Medical Center is pleased to be taking this next exciting step toward ending the pandemic and advancing our mission of ‘Making Communities Healthier.’”

The next round of vaccinations, still part of the first phase of the national rollout schedule, is already being dogged by high demand – after announcing the availability of vaccinations for a broader slice of the population, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) released a statement warning that hospitals were being overrun with calls for appointments.

“Please do not call your local hospital directly to set up appointments to be scheduled to receive your COVID-19 vaccine,” the ADPH statement read. “We have learned that hospital switchboards are being overwhelmed with phone calls, which is creating an obstacle to patient care. Hospitals throughout Alabama are overwhelmed in providing care to both COVID-19 patients as well as responding to all other medical needs of our citizens.”

The ADPH statement noted that, while some hospitals across the state – VRMC among them – have begun administering vaccine to residents 75 years of age or older, most are still working to get all frontline workers vaccinated before moving onto the senior population.

Appointments for vaccinations at VRMC can be scheduled through the hospital’s vaccine clinic, which is opened Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. or 2 p.m., while vaccine can also be accessed by calling the local health department, which can be reached at 334-872-6687.

Additionally, appointments can be scheduled through the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling Hotline, which continues to be inundated with calls – according to a press release distributed by ADPH Saturday, more than 1.1 million calls were received on the first day.

“Please do not call the appointment line if you do not qualify to schedule a vaccine at this time,” the Saturday announcement from the ADPH said. “Due to the overwhelming amount of calls, our target population cannot get through to schedule their appointments.”

Vaccination appointments are currently only available to healthcare workers, people 75 years of age or older and first responders, including law enforcement – with more than 300,000 healthcare workers in the state, and nearly 350,000 qualifying seniors, the ADPH said the “demand for vaccine continues to exceed supply in Alabama.”

The state appointment hotline can be reached at 855-566-5333 and the COVID-19 Information Hotline continues to be available at 800-270-7268 for general questions regarding the pandemic.