The Alabama Department of Public Health says state hospitals are being “overwhelmed” with calls from people asking to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and asks the public not to call hospitals directly to schedule an appointment.
Within hours of announcing that the state planned to begin vaccinating anyone over age 75 and more essential workers on Jan. 18, ADPH says Alabama hospitals have been flooded with calls from people looking to set appointments, and that the number of calls is creating problems for those hospitals.
“Please do not call your local hospital directly to set up appointments to be scheduled to receive your COVID-19 vaccine,” the department said in a news release Friday.
“We have learned that hospital switchboards are being overwhelmed with phone calls, which is creating an obstacle to patient care,” the release states. “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.”
Alabama is currently vaccinating only people in Phase 1a of its plan, frontline health care workers and some emergency responders, plus people who have extensive contact with COVID patients through their jobs, including laboratory and mortuary workers. Some areas have begun offering vaccine to other groups, if they have enough supply, but those have been largely at county health departments.
“While hospitals in a few areas of the state have begun vaccinating those 75 years of age and older, most are still working to make sure their frontline workers are vaccinated,” ADPH said. “Additional information will be provided when hospitals and locations other than county health departments have vaccine available for additional groups.”
The ADPH launched a statewide Vaccine Scheduling Hotline on Friday as well for people to call in 1-855-566-5333. Calls are answered from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. seven days a week, but ADPH says the line received more than 1.1 million calls on its first day of operation.
As a result, ADPH is asking people to only call the hotline if they are eligible to receive the vaccine on or before Jan. 18, meaning people over age 75, or who work in jobs listed under Phase 1a or 1b of the state’s vaccine allocation plan.
“Please do not call the appointment line if you do not qualify to schedule a vaccine at this time,” the ADPH said Saturday. “Due to the overwhelming amount of calls, our target population cannot get through to schedule their appointments.
“COVID-19 vaccination appointments are currently only available for healthcare workers, people 75 years and older, and first responders (including law enforcement and firefighters). The demand for vaccine continues to exceed supply in Alabama, with more than 300,000 healthcare workers and nearly 350,000 people that qualify for a vaccine at 75 years old and older.”
ADPH said that people with general inquiries about the vaccine who are not wishing to schedule appointments to receive it can call 1-800-270-7268.
The ADPH also provided a list of hospitals and medical facilities that have received the vaccine as of Jan. 6, though more locations will be added as the state receives more shipments of vaccine.
In Birmingham, the Jefferson County Department of Health also has a hotline for vaccine info at 205-858-2221. Jefferson County residents can also text 888777 with the message INFOJEFFCO to sign up for COVID-19 vaccine text message updates.
*Updated at 10:15 a.m. with additional info from ADPH.
Alabama hospitals ‘overwhelmed’ with calls about COVID vaccine – AL.com