HEFLIN — Not everyone is happy about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination which was administered at the Cleburne County Health Department last Thursday.
The Moderna vaccines were supposed to be for first responders, frontline health care workers, paramedics and physicians, however, there was still a batch of unused vaccines near the end of the day that were administered to anyone willing to roll up their sleeve.
Crystal Cavender, Cleburne County’s emergency manager, told the Cleburne County Commission during a work session Tuesday afternoon of the sequence of events that led to the doses being used for individuals who were not members of a high-risk group.
“There have been some questions and concerns from many folks about who got the vaccination and why,” said Cavender.
Cavender said there had been conference calls and meetings with state public health officials about administering Phase 1A of the vaccination program that would go to those most at risk, including frontline health care workers. Cavender said she got a phone call from the regional coordinator the day of the vaccinations to immediately notify all first responders to show up at the health department to get their vaccinations.
“So in the meantime for whatever reason or explanation, I’m not sure, the health department, in short, administered the vaccine to obviously whoever came,” said Cavender.
“That was not put out officially and it shouldn't have been that way, but again, unfortunately, so there were lots of questions and concerns,” she said.
Cavender said she has contacted the state several times on Tuesday and Monday for clarification on the situation.
“It is my fear they are creating a nightmare for the next round of vaccinations that come out,” Cavender said.
“Lesson learned ... my apologies to you guys for the backlash you’ve got out of it,” Cavender said to the commissioners.
Cavender said that all workers and residents at the Cleburne County nursing home had been vaccinated separately.
Commission Chairman Ryan Robertson asked the commissioners if they had any complaints from residents.
“Oh yeah, all day today,” said Commissioner Terry Hendrix. Commissioner Laura Cobb said she got a lot of calls as well.
Robertson said the decision to give anyone the vaccination was a state decision.
“Someone called me and I went and took advantage of it, no one turned me away,” said Robertson.
“We went, I called my mother, I called my mother-in-law, my mother-in-law didn’t make it in time ... however the health department seemed happy, they were glad they had a good turnout,” said Robertson.
Robertson said he received a card and has to return in a few weeks to get the second dose.
According to Cavender the health department administered 250 vaccines.
Cavender said she doesn't think the idea of giving just anyone the vaccine, without prioritization, was done maliciously.
“I don’t feel like they anticipated what would happen with it, although I do understand they just took advantage of whoever was there,” said Cavender.
Cavender said that in Calhoun County doses of the vaccine have gone to the next high-risk group which include residents over 75 years of age.
“I hate it, I apologize, I felt really bad because there were a lot of folks that needed it and didn’t get the opportunity to get it,” Cavender said.
Cavender said the flier officials received from the health department about last week’s vaccination was posted on the EMA web page and promised to notify the public immediately of the next round of vaccines and which group is eligible to get it.