MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Four Alabama senators on Tuesday released a letter about the Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH’s) handling of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Alabama. The letter was signed by Republican Senators Jim McClendon (Springville), Greg Albritton (Range), Tom Whatley (Auburn) and Randy Price (Opelika).
The senators’ letter read:
The Covid Vaccine Distribution Problem in Alabama
We have always known that distributing the Covid vaccine supply would be difficult, especially in the beginning.
While the supply pipeline is definitely an issue, our pipeline in Alabama has a kink. The distribution of vaccines to Alabama will continue to be interrupted until Alabama plays by the rules. The rule is simple: The CDC will not authorize shipments to Alabama until they know we are using what we have on hand. Our citizens are paying a deadly price.
When CDC looks at our “inventory” we appear to have more doses than we can administer and with the high demand of vaccines nationally, doses are allocated to states who are reporting accurately. In addition, when vaccines are not entered into the registry the order for the 2nd dose is not triggered.
In other words, we must report to the CDC the doses administered in order to get additional doses to the state. Apparently ADPH is unable to provide all of the following information:
- How many doses have we received in Alabama?
- How many doses have been distributed to locations around the state?
- How many doses have been put into arms?
- How many doses put in arms have been reported to the CDC?
In addition, every day, each location should notify ADPH of the number of doses they have remaining on hand. Every day.
If the Alabama Department of Public Health does not know the answer these questions, then the CDC certainly doesn’t know, and it makes no sense to send additional doses to Alabama.
In a nutshell, ADPH must get every dose that has been administered entered into the registry for the Feds to send us more. While over 200 locations are giving doses, not all are entering them. And to be honest, the doctors, pharmacists, nurses who are giving Covid vaccinations in addition to their daily duties are already doing ADPHs job, and blaming them for not entering doses into the registry is nonproductive.
The solution seems easy enough. Call all 221 locations and ask for how many doses they have on hand and compare that to what was sent to them. ImmPRINT is Alabama’s version of a statewide vaccine registry, and If those doses are not entered into ImmPRINT the ADPH should request the patient list and ADPH should enter those doses to get the kink out of our supply pipeline. The ADPH also should exercise the authority to require all locations administering the vaccine to keep the registry current, and not be supplied additional vaccine till they comply.
Regardless, until we can account for all doses administered we will continue to have supply issues and the risk in Alabama will continue unabated.
Tuesday evening, the ADPH responded to the senators’ letter:
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) would like to provide a response to the information included in a letter that was distributed to the news media earlier today by a group of Alabama state senators to correct any misunderstanding of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process.
The department is in regular communication with our elected officials in Alabama and has described the process of our weekly per capita vaccine allotments in great detail. The number of COVID-19 vaccine doses allocated to Alabama is based on our population and is not determined by how much vaccine is on hand in the state. The number of doses remaining from previous allocations does not affect the number of doses that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorizes for Alabama.
ADPH has been in ongoing conversations with CDC to provide our numbers in Alabama. While the department works with CDC to resolve data issues that have been encountered due to a response of this size, it does not in any way affect the number of doses that Alabama receives.
The data to answer each of the questions asked in the letter is publicly available on the ADPH COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Dashboard, which can be accessed on the ADPH website (arcg.is/OrCey) and has been updated as of Jan. 19, 2021. The data from the CDC is available on its vaccine data tracker website (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations), although CDC has not updated Alabama’s information since Jan. 15, 2021.
Providers are federally required to report within 24 hours of administering vaccine. ADPH uses the Immunization Patient Registry with Integrated Technology (ImmPRINT) system to collect this information. Staff works with providers if assistance is needed.
The biggest obstacle to vaccination in Alabama is the limited supply of vaccine. Alabama currently has approximately 676,000 people who qualify to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but since our state is allocated only around 50,000-60,000 primary doses each week, the supply is not available to reach these numbers at this time.
ADPH receives thousands of calls, emails and social media messages every day from people who are providing suggestions to help the vaccination process move faster. We appreciate any recommendations and want the public to rest assured that ADPH has a tremendous staff of physicians, nurses, public health experts and other medical professionals who continue to work tirelessly on the vaccine rollout in Alabama. A vaccination plan of this size is truly unprecedented, and ADPH is grateful for everyone’s continued patience as we work to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.