TUSCALOOSA, AL — The University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences announced on Monday that it has received its first group of about 3,500 Moderna coronavirus vaccine doses and will begin to administer them on Friday.
Dr. Richard Friend, the dean of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, explained the first phase of vaccinations follow its emergency use authorization and will be distributed at University Medical Center on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, beginning on Jan. 8.
As of Dec. 28, 2020, the state health department reported a total vaccine allocation of 128,175 to Alabama, with 20,354 doses, mostly of the Pfizer vaccine, administered statewide.
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Dr. Friend said Campus Emergency Management officials are working daily with the Alabama Department of Public Health to plan for distributing the vaccines with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine priority access.
The first groups offered access will include health care providers, first responders, Capstone Village residents and employees, in addition to vulnerable populations within the UA community. Each member of a priority group will be contacted via email letting them know they are eligible, providing them the option of scheduling an appointment or declining the vaccination.
Each eligible person will receive an email notifying them. They will then have the option to accept vaccination and make an appointment or decline a vaccination, then an email will go to the next person in the priority category.
Dr. Friend said the university has been preparing for its first doses of the Moderna vaccine for the last six weeks, saying they are a "little bit easier to handle."
"They don’t have the ultra-low freezer storage requirement," he pointed out. "They can be stored at -20 [degrees] and in the refrigerator, they have a half-life of about 30 days."
Patch has previously reported the two-shot Moderna vaccine is taken 28 days apart.
The physician, who has already received the vaccine, also addressed a recent talking point that has emerged, as some propose using smaller doses of the vaccine in order to stretch out the supply and vaccinate more people. Friend shook off the notion and said the university will continue to follow directives set at the state and federal levels.
"I will tell you there’s a lot of conversations going on about that," he said. "The circles I'm in are strongly recommending against that. We are wanting to make sure we are are only giving the vaccine in accordance with the clinical trial's data and the clinical trial data does not support that."
In an effort to mitigate any additional community spreading of the virus, UA plans to increase sentinel testing and require roughly 10,000 residential students, including Greek houses, to be tested for the coronavirus or they will be allowed to send in proof of positive coronavirus status in the last 90 days. UA says testing must be done within seven days of arrival, no later than Jan. 19.
The university has also said it will offer a free PCR test on campus, or students may elect to test at home or through a personal physician prior to returning to campus.