Gov. Kay Ivey received the second dose of her COVID-19 vaccination this morning and encouraged Alabamians to prepare to receive theirs when they can.
Ivey spoke to reporters after receiving the second shot of the Pfizer vaccine at Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery. The governor said the shots were painless and she’s had no side effects from the first shot on Dec. 21.
“I want to encourage everybody to get in line, be patient as you wait, but everybody to get in line,” Ivey said. “I just want to encourage you to take this COVID vaccination. We need shots in the arm, not on the shelf. So please, avail yourself to this free opportunity that will protect you and your loved ones.”
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and Dr. Mary McIntyre, chief medical officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, also received their second shots today with the governor.
Harris said demand for the vaccine still exceeds supply.
“I think the point that we’d like to help people understand is there’s just not enough vaccine at this point,” Harris said. “We know everybody who needs one is going to get one at some time. We’re just not there yet.”
Harris said there were about 326,000 people in the first phase of who was eligible for shots in Alabama, mainly health care workers and nursing home residents. Last week, the ADPH announced it would begin Jan. 18 making vaccines available by appointment to people 75 and older and more first responders, including police and firefighters. That added about 400,000 more people, Harris said.
Callers have swamped the hotlines set up for those in the newly eligible groups to schedule appointments.
“We’re doing our best to improve our phone line ability,” Harris said. “It was really overwhelmed with calls last week. And probably half of those calls, perhaps more, were from people who weren’t even eligible at this point. So, we would again ask people to please be patient. And we’re going to get vaccine to everyone as soon as possible.”
Jefferson County officials have said they might be able to begin giving vaccines to the 75 and older group a few days before the state rollout next week.
Related: Vaccines in Alabama slowed by reluctant medical workers, hospital bottlenecks
Harris said the state has been allotted about 270,000 doses so far but has not received 30,000 to 40,000 of those. He said about 88,000 doses have been given as of Monday.
The COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb. Alabama added more than 3,800 overnight, bringing the total for the pandemic to almost 408,000 in the state. The state reported 226 more deaths, many dating back several months, to bring the total to 5,573.
Harris said he was disappointed by reports of a large crowd in Tuscaloosa celebrating Alabama’s national championship win over Ohio State on Monday night. He said he understood the excitement but said that was risky activity with the state’s infection rate at a high level.
“Right now is not a time to be out together in large groups of people when you’re not masked,” Harris said. “Our percent positive rate in our state right now is about 20%. So, anytime you’re in a group of more than a few people at all, you’re almost certainly guaranteed to have a case. So, I just hope people will try to do the right thing and avoid those kind of crowds.”
The state health officer said he can see better days ahead but not immediately.
“I actually am optimistic,” Harris said. “We have a way to get through this. We see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we’re just not close right now. We’ve got a long way to go.”