.The Vaccine Rollout and Governor Ivey's Poor Leadership
Photo Credit: Henrix_Photos, Pixabay
On January 2nd, the Alabama Free Press (AFP) called on Kay Ivey to change the Alabama vaccine plan to address the most vulnerable in the state - seniors. There was no action taken. Only after immense public pressure did the state of Alabama change the vaccine plan to include those age 65 & older on January 29th. Most other states changed their plans early in the month. Alabama was one of the last to make this change
Based on data, AFP provided specific reasons of what needed to change, and why. Specially, AFP stated that those age 65 to 74 are 90 times more likely to die from the virus than those 18 to 29, and that they accounted for 20% of all Covid-19 deaths. Despite knowing this, Governor Ivey took no action until there was little choice but to make the change.
While Dr. Harris has not publicly stated it, Alabama is no longer following the specific guidelines of the CDC’s ACIP committee. Yes, they are including groups that are identified by CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), but the plan is now Governor Kay Ivey’s plan. Prior to this point, Governor Ivey has been able to let the CDC ACIP committee provide cover for Alabama’s bad decisions. She cannot do that anymore. Yet, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) website (see "Prioritization") still implies that the CDC ACIP committee is calling the shots. This is not true.
Governor Ivey’s attempt to blame the federal government is pitiful. Don’t be fooled that the problem is just the amount of vaccine being delivered to the state. West Virginia has provided vaccines to their state residents at about twice the rate of Alabama. Governor Ivey is playing political games when people’s lives are at stake.
In May 2020, the Alabama legislature turned over control of the $1.8 billion the state received for Covid-19 relief as part of the Cares Act to Governor Ivey. Yet, in 8 months, she could not get a state online vaccination reservation system in place for when the vaccines arrived in December. When the vaccines were arriving was not a secret. That is complete incompetence. Not having an online registration system caused some seniors over age 75 to wait for as long as four hours this past Saturday in order to receive a vaccine. There were no bathrooms available for them during that time.
On January 2nd, AFP also stated that the age group of 50 to 64 accounted for about 15% of all Covid-19 deaths and are 30 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those 18 to 29. Yet, these ages are not specifically mentioned in the Alabama vaccine plan. Why? This has to change and change now. They should be included in Phase 1c.
Governor Ivey is letting political lobbyists control her decisions. These lobbyists include the AEA (education) and the FMI (food industry) associations. Over the years, AEA has put teacher's interests before those of Alabama's children. This time they are putting young, healthy teachers first over the lives of the grandparents of the children. During the CDC ACIP meeting last week, a spokesman for FMI called on President Biden to assign a person to each state to prevent states from making their own decisions, and to make sure their members were taken care of in the early stages. Both of these lobbyists, and others, want their young, healthy members to be vaccinated first despite very little risk of severe illness or death.
On Friday, Dr. Scott Harris stated "not everyone needs it as urgently as other people ... if you are a young person, a healthy person who is not at risk of serious illness ... please think about letting other people go in front of you". Those statements show that he knows that the plan should be changed. Governor Ivey knows too.
On Friday, Dr. Don Williamson of the Alabama Hospital Association stated on WSFA, in Montgomery: "there may be certain populations for whom this is a perfect ideal vaccine, otherwise healthy individuals who are low risk of having a bad outcome to begin with, giving them the Johnson and Johnson may be the right choice for that population".
He is exactly right. Governor Ivey should call on ADPH to stop all vaccinations for low risk “essential workers” until the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which has a lower efficacy rate, is made available. Kay Ivey should immediately stop vaccinations to those under age 35 unless they have underlying medical risks (or are frontline medical workers). The new more contagious variants make this change even more urgent.
THIS IS THE GOVERNOR IVEY VACCINE PLAN
Make no mistake, the plan is now the Governor Kay Ivey Vaccine Plan. To be blunt, if Governor Ivey does not change the February 8th rollout, moving forward, all consequences will fall at her feet. She has failed to speak up for the seniors of Alabama. Now is the time for her to take action, or take full responsibility for not doing so. She needs to quit hiding in the Mansion while sending Dr. Harris out to face the public. She needs to tell Alabamians ages 50 to 64 why they are not "essential" and explain why they are not even mentioned in her vaccine plan.
It is time for Kay Ivey to be a leader and make changes to the vaccine plan now. "The time is always right to do what is right".