Huntsville Hospital focused on mass coronavirus vaccinations

More than 20,000 people have already signed up to be vaccinated by the hospital since the state entered phase 1B.

Posted: Jan 21, 2021 6:13 PM
Updated: Jan 21, 2021 6:31 PM

Across the Huntsville Hospital system, hospitalizations and staff coronavirus cases are decreasing.

According to numbers released by the hospital Thursday, there are currently 365 inpatients in the system. On Monday, there were 409.

A nurse prepares a dose of the coronavirus vaccine at the Huntsville Hospital community vaccination clinic Monday.

David Spillers, Huntsville Hospital’s CEO, said he believes the drop is, in part, thanks to the lack of a New Year’s surge.

“The huge surge we got from Thanksgiving to Christmas, that bolus of patients are working their way out of the system,” he said. “We didn’t get another surge like we thought for New Year’s, so we didn’t have any replacing those. So at this point, we’re just discharging more patients than we’re admitting.”

Throughout the pandemic, the hospital system has also struggled with high numbers of staff cases. Recently, Spillers said they’ve seen a decrease of 20-30% in terms of staff members out with coronavirus.

“Following the same trend we've got in the community,” he said. “So, again, I don't want to get too excited, 'cause it could all change tomorrow, but right now, we're all trending in a good direction."

He believes masking has made a difference. With the state’s Safer at Home order extending the mask mandate into March, Spillers said he believes it will be important long after the order expires.

As vaccinations continue around the nation, Spillers said there is a lot of work that still needs to be done at the local level to meet goals -- like President Biden’s plan for 100 million during his first 100 days.

"One: we need to have virtually unlimited access to vaccines. Two: we need to significantly expand the number of sites where people can get a vaccine,” he explained. “If we're gonna vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people, we need hundreds of sites vaccinating people."

Places like pharmacies, physicians’ offices, hospitals and health departments need to be part of the effort, but vaccines are still in short supply and Spillers says efforts need to be made to ramp up distribution.

The hospital has already had 20,000 people sign up to be vaccinated, a process that Spillers believes is going to take a while, even with 500 to 700 vaccinations each day, since 20,000 people require 40,000 shots.

“There are people out there that are frustrated 'cause they can't get it right now, obviously, and I heard what they said, but at the same time, there is a shortage. We still don't have all we need,” Spillers said.

“Early in the pandemic, we had the same issue with testing and over time, we fixed that. I think over time, we'll fix the issue with vaccinations and they'll be readily available and everybody can get one when they want one.”

According to the state vaccine dashboard, more than 640,000 doses of the vaccine have been allocated for Alabama, yet just under 450,000 have been delivered.

As of Thursday, the health department reports 202,643 doses have been administered.

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