Agencies take steps to ensure second COVID-19 doses are given
By Marian Accardi
For the Enquirer
Inclement weather forced the cancellation of some second-dose COVID-19 vaccination appointments, but health officials said they are catching up on the resulting backlog.
Because of weather closures this past week, the Morgan County Health Department extended its vaccination clinic hours for those who weren’t able to get their second shots.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation is that you get a second dose as close to the scheduled time as you possibly can,” said Judy Smith, Alabama Department of Public Health administrator for the Northern District. “For Pfizer, that would be three weeks later; for Moderna, that would be four weeks later. However, the CDC says that is not an absolute.”
According to the CDC, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, and a delay in vaccination is unavoidable, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be administered up to six weeks after the first dose.
“You don’t want to make it any longer than you have to,” Smith said. “We are going to get caught up on the second doses. We’re going to see that those people who were due a second dose and want to get that second dose are given those second doses.”
Smith said the Morgan County Health Department administered 915 second doses of the Moderna vaccine Feb. 17. “That took care of the majority of our backlog,” she said. “We did three-fourths of what needed to be done.”
The extended hours, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., will be in place this week as needed “to ensure people get the vaccine they’re due and that they want,” Smith said. The schedule is subject to change if weather issues recur.
Smith said the Morgan County Health Department administered 1,603 first doses the week of Jan. 18, and those people were due back for their second shots.
“The weather tried to trip us up, but we tripped back and, with extended hours, have made it available to everybody that was due that vaccine,” she said.
Because of other appointments already scheduled for these days, those who missed their dose are encouraged to use the later morning hours or the 3-5 p.m. hours to cut down on waiting times.
The Morgan County Health Department COVID-19 vaccination clinic for the next two weeks is for people who are due their second doses.
The vaccine clinic at the Parkway campus of Decatur Morgan Hospital was open Thursday. It advised people who missed an appointment time to come in later in the day or to reschedule by calling 256-973-2888.
Data from the Alabama Department of Public Health shows that, as of Thursday, there were 13,448 confirmed and probable cases in Morgan County, with 672 in the past 14 days; 9,223 in Limestone County, with 770 in the past 14 days; and 2,787 cases in Lawrence County, with 162 in the past 14 days.
“Our hope is that by the first of March and no later than the second week in March, we will be able to begin to do some more primary doses,” Smith said. “That’s our goal. That’s what we’re aiming at, depending on what we have, once we’ve done these committed second doses.”
Smith said she is also hoping other providers will be offering COVID-19 vaccines so people will have additional options.
A third coronavirus vaccine candidate has requested emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Early this month, Johnson & Johnson submitted its application for the company’s single-dose vaccine, and the FDA is expected to hold the first meeting of outside advisers on the application next Friday.
The company has said if emergency use is granted, it expects to supply 100 million doses to the U.S. in the first half of 2021.
“We don’t know what will happen if that is authorized and approved,” Smith said. “The door might open to getting more vaccine, so there’s a lot of promise on the horizon.”
Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of clinical operations for UAB Hospital, addressed the potential for other COVID-19 vaccine candidates that might provide a single-dose option during a recent news conference.
“We don’t know if they’re going to be approved or not; we think they probably will,” said Nafziger. “As we move ahead, if we have single-dose vaccine candidates, that’s great because let me tell you, it’s really complex to do second doses – to make sure you get the same patient back in the timeframe that you’re supposed to have them back. It’s difficult for the team delivering the vaccine, and it’s difficult for the patient sometimes as well.”
The University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAB Medicine administered 59,167 vaccines from mid-December through Tuesday, according to UAB, and of those, 41,075 have received a first dose and 18,092 have received first and second doses.
“We’re really looking forward to the future and hoping there are some single-dose vaccine candidates out there,” Nafziger said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with that.”