Oxford Health Systems might say no to its next scheduled shipment of COVID-19 vaccine because too few people are coming in for shots, director Tom Dixon said Wednesday.
The decline in demand comes as hospitalizations and deaths from the virus are dwindling — though only around one in four Calhoun County residents have actually completed their vaccination.
“It’s really mind-blowing,” Dixon said. “This is not like telling people ‘Be sure to come to parent-teacher night.’ This is a potentially life-or-death situation.”
Oxford Health, a health care authority set up by the city’s government within the last year, had been giving people the Pfizer coronavirus shot in a drive-in clinic on Hamric Drive. At its height, the site was giving roughly 150 shots per day. Now, Dixon said, it’s down to five or six.
The change comes as the community emerges into what is seemingly a post-pandemic era. Regional Medical Center on Tuesday announced that it discharged its last remaining COVID-19 patient. Though 323 people in Calhoun County have died of the virus, the rate of deaths has slowed dramatically since March. At least one local school, Jacksonville High, on Wednesday dropped its requirement for masks at Thursday’s graduation ceremony.
Even so, Alabama has a lower vaccination rate than any state except Mississippi, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with only about three in 10 residents in the state completely vaccinated.
Despite the low overall numbers, state figures show that among the highest risk population, people over 65, most people have been vaccinated — something that may account for the decline in deaths.
Finding younger people interested in the vaccine, though, has become increasingly difficult. Dixon said Oxford now has roughly 400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine left, and he’s reluctant to accept another order of 1,170 for fear the health care authority won’t be able to give them away by the July 1 due date.
“It’s a medical ethics dilemma,” Dixon said. He said that if Oxford turns down the next shipment, it would still be eligible for future shipments.
At Martin’s Pharmacy in Oxford, a pharmacy employee said Wednesday that while COVID shots are still being given, demand is down. Regional Medical Center CEO Louis Bass said Tuesday that the Anniston hospital is also seeing less demand for the shots.