With Alabama’s expansion of vaccine eligibility Monday, more than 1.5 million people are now able to receive the vaccine.
At John Hunt Park, Huntsville Hospital’s Community Vaccination Clinic planned to administer nearly 1,700 doses during the site’s first day handling mass vaccinations.
From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., a seemingly constant stream of appointments walked in and then back out of the doors of the Jaycee Community Building. Even with a goal to vaccinate nearly 2,000 people Monday, many said their entire process lasted about 30 minutes.
Sparkman High School teacher Erin Wooten was among the group eligible to be vaccinated for the first time Monday and described the process as "streamlined."
"Yeah, it was super quick,” she said. “Everybody was super professional and helpful and I just walked right in and within maybe three minutes I had my shot."
Wooten allowed me to time her experience from the moment she walked in the building to the moment she made it back out. All in, from check in to vaccination to observation and out, it was 22 minutes flat. Hard for even her to believe.
"I was surprised, I thought it wouldn't be as efficient as it was,” Wooten said. “It was super, super streamlined."
Some teachers said they were so excited to hear that they'd been bumped up to phase 1B that they signed up as soon as registration opened. The decision to get vaccinated wasn't just about them, but also their students and their families.
Now with one dose down, some say they'll feel more comfortable around their students.
"I feel so relieved because I'm a slightly higher risk group anyway because I have some illnesses and there's been a lot of kids in my classroom and I've been really nervous about this and knowing that I'm going to be OK in a little while makes me just -- I'm able to rest easy,” Rachel Mellen, a Huntsville City Schools teacher, said.
Mellen hopes the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel on the road back to some form of normalcy. She described the process as super-efficient with a dose in her arm just minutes are arriving.
That experience was nothing unique Monday. Many of those who rolled up their sleeves experienced the same thing.
"You can't beat it,” Tony Martinez said after his first dose. “I was in there, what, a total half-hour.”
With 16 vaccination stations set up inside the building, Huntsville Hospital says it's on pace to vaccinate more than 1,500 people each day, so long as the vaccine supply is there.
Of that group, about 1,000 will receive their first doses each day this week. There is enough vaccine to get the hospital through this week, but Jeff Samz, Huntsville Hospital’s COO, says they’ll have to cut back the total number to 500 new doses and 500 second doses as early as Saturday.
“That's the pace we can go with the vaccine we have and then we'll just kind of adjust based on how much vaccine we get,” he explained.
If they start to run low on vaccines, they'll likely stop taking new appointments to ensure that there are enough second doses for those who need them.
The hospital says this is a pace it hopes to keep, vaccine permitting, and cited appointments a major difference-maker. Currently, vaccinations are being done on an appointment-only basis and those who show up without one will be turned away.