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Vaccinations begin in Alabama as COVID-19 cases soar

December 15, 2020 GMT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Health care workers and a few others began receiving the first vaccinations against the new coronavirus in Alabama on Tuesday as cases of the illness caused by the virus soared.

Two physicians at Southeast Health in Dothan were the first in the state to receive the vaccine, the Alabama Department of Public Health said. Cullman Regional Medical Center said a longtime nurse, Donna Snow, had received an initial dose of the two-step vaccine a day after the hospital, located north of Birmingham, received its first shipment.

“I’m hopeful that more people are able to take the vaccine so we can begin to see a decline in the number of critically ill patients and families impacted by this disease,” Snow, who works in critical care, said in a statement released by the hospital.

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On a day that state statistics showed more than 3,600 new cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in Alabama, veterans and health care workers at the Birmingham VA Medical Center also began receiving vaccinations. Additional hospitals will begin providing vaccinations — most to front-line health care workers at first — as more shipments arrive.

Workers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which is providing vaccinations for multiple organizations across seven counties, will begin giving the first of 11,000 doses on a large scale on Friday, said Dr. Sarah Nafziger of UAB Hospital. As many as 1,000 people a day could get the shots.

“That’s our goal,” she said. It’s unclear when the vaccine will be available to members of the general public, Nafziger said, but it could be by spring.

The state received nearly 41,000 doses of new Pfizer vaccine in the initial round of shipments that were sent to 15 hospitals that could store the material in special freezers.

More than 300,000 people in Alabama have contracted the virus, and COVID-19 has killed more than 4,120 people statewide. State health regulators said they have loosened licensing rules to allow more out-of-state doctors to work in the state, where intensive care beds are filling up and medical workers are among the ill.

The Alabama Department of Corrections, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of inmate deaths from COVID-19, said three more elderly inmates had died of the illness caused by the coronavirus. All three men had serious health problems before contracting the virus, the agency said in a statement.

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The first name of Dr. Sarah Nafziger has been corrected in this story.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/virus-outbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.