Long lines for vaccines as Alabama widens eligibility

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AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. The British health service has started to vaccinate "vulnerable" homeless people. In a study by Oxford University, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to reduce transmission of the virus. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Hundreds of people showed up for COVID-19 vaccinations at mass sites across Alabama on Monday as the state drastically expanded the eligibility to receive immunizations despite a limited supply of doses.

In Montgomery, long lines of cars surrounded an old shopping mall where shots were available on a first-come, first-serve basis. About 500 people received shots to guard against the new coronavirus in less than three hours, officials said.

Shots were given out by appointment at locations including the Oxford Civic Center in east Alabama, and Tia Dryer said she traveled to Huntsville from Mobile with three friends to get a shot at a vaccination site set up in a park.

“I am a breast cancer survivor, and I thought that I needed this shot,” Dryer told WAAY-TV.

Starting Monday, those who were qualified for vaccinations in Alabama included everyone 65 and older; educators; grocery store workers; some manufacturing workers; public transit workers; agriculture employees; state legislators, and constitutional officers. Only health care workers, first responders, nursing home residents, and people 75 and older were eligible previously.

The change meant as many as 1.5 million people in the state now qualify for shots, up from about 700,000 previously. With the vaccine supply still limited despite the expanded eligibility, officials asked people who aren’t at high risk for developing a serious case of the illness to let other people get vaccines first.

More than 8,520 people in Alabama have died of COVID-19, and more than 473,000 have tested positive. While the virus causes only minor or moderate symptoms for most people, it can be serious for the elderly and those with other, serious health problems.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.