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Anniston’s first COVID-19 vaccinations coming Wednesday

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Moderna Vaccine

Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.

Ten people are expected to get doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday as Anniston’s Regional Medical Center launches the first vaccination effort in Calhoun County, hospital officials said Tuesday. 

The hospital has 2,900 doses of the vaccine on hand as of Tuesday morning, RMC CEO Louis Bass said. Ten hospital workers at “high risk” because of their exposure to COVID patients will be the first to get the shot on Wednesday.

“We’re excited,” said RMC spokeswoman Kristin Fillingim. “We can see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

  Bass said most of the hospital’s workers will get their first doses of the vaccine next week, starting Monday. They will receive the doses on a staggered schedule, based on where their names fall in the alphabet. The hospital has about 1,800 employees, Bass said.

That leaves hundreds of shots available for others awaiting the first dose of the two-dose vaccine. Bass and Fillingim said first responders will be next in line to get the vaccine, through a vaccination event to be held at Anniston City Meeting Center in about two weeks. 

Calhoun County is home to about 113,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and it may be some time before shots go out to healthy adults with no connection to the medical field.

There is a separate vaccination effort to provide shots to residents and workers in nursing homes, in which federal officials are working with pharmacies. Workers at local nursing homes said earlier this week that they didn’t expect those shots to be delivered until early January.

Bass said the hospital is expecting more shipments of the vaccine in the future, but so far it’s unclear when those shipments will arrive or how large they will be.

“We’ve been given no indication of when that will be,” Bass said.

The vaccine arrives as the Anniston area, and Alabama as a whole, wrestle with a virus that is spreading out of control.

In Calhoun County, 8,856 people have had the virus — nearly 1,600 of them diagnosed in the past two weeks, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, and 141 people have been killed by the virus. The daily number of new infections in the county is nearly twice what it was during COVID-19’s summer peak.

As of Friday, 62 people were hospitalized with the virus at RMC, emergency management officials have said.

Statewide, a record 2,526 people are hospitalized with the virus, and the state sees nearly 4,000 new infections per day. More than 4,400 people in the state have died of the virus since the pandemic began.

State health officials on Tuesday warned Alabama residents to remain on guard against the virus, noting that there’s still not enough vaccine on hand to immediately immunize all the state’s highest-risk medical workers and patients.

“The overriding issue is the scarcity of the vaccine,” Dr. Scott Harris, the state’s chief health officer, was quoted as saying in a Tuesday press release.

Among other tips, ADPH officials have urged people to postpone travel and avoid gatherings during the holidays.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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