Alabama expands COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone 16 and older beginning April 5 –

Alabama will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone 16 years and older beginning April 5, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Friday.

Ivey made the announcement during a visit to the Alabama National Guard mobile vaccination clinic in Wilcox County.

Our goal is simple. That is to get shots off the shelf and into the arms of Alabamians, Ivey said.

The clinic was at Wilcox Central High School in Camden, Iveys hometown.

I have committed to the people of Alabama that we are on a path forward, and while there is more work to be done, I remain hopeful and optimistic in where we are going. Recent findings from the CDC show preliminary data suggesting that vaccinated individuals do not appear to be spreading the virus, so that is hopeful, underscores the effectiveness of the vaccine and is yet another reason to get the shot, Governor Ivey said. Truly, this vaccine is our ticket back to normal life. We are so close to getting COVID-19 in the rearview, and until then, we should all keep wearing our masks, get vaccinated and use the common sense the good Lord gave us.

Currently the Pfizer vaccine is available to individuals age 16 and up, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are both available to individuals 18 years of age and older.

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With the expansion, there will be close to 4 million eligible individuals in the state of Alabama, according to Iveys announcement. The state is receiving about 115,000 first doses each week, according to the governors statement.

We believe that everyone ought to receive this vaccine, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. Its the way that Alabama gets back to normal. Its the way that we put all this behind us.

Harris, who joined Ivey for the announcement, said slightly more than 1.7 million shots have been given in Alabama.

These shots have gone to more than 1.1 million Alabamians most at risk of illness and death due to COVID-19, Harris said in a press release. As progress has been made, equitable vaccine distribution has been and remains a driving force in immunizing state residents. The increased supply of safe and effective vaccines means all adults who wish to be vaccinated are now eligible to receive the protection vaccines offer.

As of April 1, 1,724,463 doses have been administered, according to Iveys statement.

Dr. Mary McIntyre, chief medical officer for the Department of Public Health, spoke at the press conference and encouraged people to get the vaccine that is available to them soonest and not wait in a specific vaccine. McIntyre also said the temporary side effects that affect some should not dissuade people from getting shots.

That really means the vaccine is working, McIntyre said. Your body is actually mounting the immune response it needs to mount. So if you get a little headache, or you get a little fever for a few days or some chills, that is not unexpected. And it may occur in some people and not in others. But thats not a reason to not take the vaccine.

More than 99 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of a vaccine, the Associated Press reported. But cases have risen slightly, with an average of 64,000 new cases a day this week compared to 55,000 two weeks ago, AP said.

Harris said that uptick has not shown up in Alabama yet.

Obviously we are monitoring that and are concerned with what we see around the country, Harris said. But the fact that our deaths have remained low and our hospitalization numbers have remained low lead us to believe our actual case numbers are low. So, were pleased with that right now.

Harris, as he has done before previous holiday weekends, urged caution about gatherings for Easter.

We still want people to be alert, to be careful, to remember that the pandemic is not over yet, Harris said. We still have a ways to go before we can put this behind us.

For those people who are vulnerable, in particular those people who are older or those people with chronic health problems, our advice still remains the same. Please be careful about getting together in groups. Please wear masks when youre able to do that. Please make sure you are careful about sanitation and hygiene.

Harris reinforced several of the basic guidelines for social events.

Smaller gatherings are better than larger gatherings. Outdoors is better than indoors. A short amount of time is better than a longer amount of time. So, please just do your best to protect yourself and especially protect those most vulnerable people around you, he said.

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Alabama expands COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone 16 and older beginning April 5 -

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