• Our 360 Staff

As COVID-19 vaccine approval nears finish line, Alabama could begin vaccinations within days

What to know:

  • FDA Commissioner says they are “rapidly” working to approve the vaccine.

  • Alabama is expected to receive 40,000 doses of the vaccine next week.

  • State Sen. Orr says he’s introducing a bill to prohibit the state from making the vaccine mandatory for adults.

The first COVID-19 vaccine in the US cleared a critical hurdle Thursday when the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 17-4 to recommend the vaccine for approval. Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine is now days, if not hours, away from garnering FDA emergency approval.

Friday morning, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement that his agency is moving “rapidly” to grant emergency use for the vaccine. After emergency approval, the vaccine can begin to be immediately distributed across the country.

Alabama expects to receive about 40,000 doses by next week. Moderna’s FDA application will be reviewed next week and could add thousands of more doses by the end of the year. Other pharmaceutical companies, like Johnson and Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline, expect approval for their vaccines in early 2021.

Alabama’s vaccine rollout calls for healthcare providers to be first in line. Who is next after healthcare workers and at-risk nursing home patients remains important for the re-opening of Alabama’s economy and getting people back to work.

One of the most critical aspects of that is opening schools for in-person instruction. Schools have been moving back to virtual instruction as cases have increased across the State. WBRC reported Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey said that it is likely front-line school nurses who will be most at-risk for contact with the virus will be involved in the second main vaccination round and then teachers will be “quickly behind that” in line. He added that two more Alabama teachers recently passed away due to the virus.

Experts expect that the general public should have access to a vaccine by early summer 2021.

The race for access comes at a critical time when hospitals in Alabama and across the country are facing record hospitalizations due to the virus and ICU rooms are nearing capacity.

Who will take it?

Garnering support for people to take the vaccine will be critical to reach herd immunity. With distrust for government mandates and many still believing the COVID-19 response is an overreaction, there is concern that not enough people will take the vaccine.

Alabama’s vaccine rollout plan does not make the vaccine mandatory for anyone but says the vaccine will be free to all Alabamians. However, State Sen. Arthur Orr told WSFA he is drafting legislation to prohibit Alabama’s state health officer from mandating all residents take a vaccine.

Most Alabama students must follow a vaccine schedule unless certain exceptions are met, but currently there is ambiguous language that the Alabama Department of Public Health has the ability to mandate vaccines for adults.

“[The bill] would not allow the state public health officer to mandate a uniform, across the board vaccination of all adults in the state,” Orr said. “I’ve been contacted by numerous constituents saying they’re concerned about any government mandate to require individuals to take a vaccine against their wishes.” The Alabama Legislature returns in February.

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