Troy University and the Alabama Department of Public Health have conflicting answers as to why the state has delayed doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to the college.
The university said the school was told the state health department is taking a new approach to vaccine distribution, providing what would have been Troy’s allotment of vaccines to other locations in need.
“The reason behind ADPH’s change of direction was the idea that the state felt that they could reach more citizens if they created these mass vaccination events,” Dr. Lance Tatum, chair of Troy’s Coronavirus Task Force, said. “That would require them to take the dosages, that would have been intended for Troy, to be then distributed to Dothan, Montgomery and other parts of the state.”
Dean of Student Services Herb Reeves said ADPH did not “specifically” say where the vaccines were headed. He did confirm ADPH expressed the need to “ensure they had enough vaccines and supplies to meet the needs of the mass vaccination clinics.”
“No,” ADPH told the Tropolitan when asked if the Moderna vaccines were now being shipped to mass distribution locations in other cities, such as Dothan and Montgomery.
“These sites were Pfizer vaccines, and Troy does not have the freezer to store this product,” ADPH’s Dr. Karen Landers said.
“The Alabama Department of Public Health has more entities requesting Moderna vaccine than ADPH has supply,” Landers said. “Distributing vaccine to Troy University is related to having less supply of Moderna to distribute.”
After the Tropolitan’s initial reporting on Auburn University confirming it was vaccinating faculty and some students, ADPH told Troy it could possibly get some doses of the vaccine in the first week of February. Last Tuesday, Troy was told that was no longer the case. There is now no estimated date for arrival.
While Troy waits, some of its faculty haven’t. Following Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement that educators would be considered “frontline workers” after Feb. 8, professors are traveling 50 plus miles from the university to get inoculated.
Dr. Amanda Diggs is a professor of communicatidiverton studies at Troy University, where she has taught for 20 years. She said she was “just jumping for joy” when she and her colleagues qualified as critical workers.
“I was just waiting for the date when we would be included,” Diggs said. “We tend to be high-risk. We come in contact with a lot of people.”
While Diggs’ alma mater, Auburn University, is able to vaccinate its faculty, she said she found trouble finding her shot.
“On the news they were talking about different distribution sites in Montgomery and Dothan, and that’s what I went for,” Diggs said.
Diggs explained she turned to the ADPH website to find a location.
“However, they hadn’t updated the information. Their information wasn’t the same as it was on the news,” Diggs said, adding she would “click on the map and they would say there’s nothing going on in your area.”
“You had to put some energy into it,” she said.
Diggs was able to track down a mass vaccination site in Montgomery. She drove there on Tuesday, waiting from 11:15 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. inside her car, which was squeezed in a line of others trying to get a dose.
“I wasn’t expecting to be in the car that long, but it was an orderly process,” she said.
ADPH said the reason other colleges, such as Auburn University ( 7,000 doses) and the University of Alabama ( at least 3,500 doses), received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in January was because the institutions were already registered in the statewide population-based information system, ImmPRINT, and had the freezers to store the vaccines.
“Some universities were already ImmPRINT providers with cold chain storage capacity,” Landers said on Jan. 29.
Troy became a provider on Jan. 27, according to Reeves, meaning the university does have the cold chain storage to hold the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The university said the storage is in the new Health Center on campus. Reeves said the school is exploring the option of obtaining a freezer system for the Pfizer vaccine.
“ADPH plans to provide COVID-19 vaccine to Troy when supply is available,” Landers said.
It remains unknown when Troy will get a supply, but Tatum believes they will come in weekly 500-dose increments once activity begins.
ADPH said the halt in providing to universities due to supply extends further than Troy – with one exception.
“Vaccine supply is still limited and entities, including these (Auburn and Alabama), may not receive vaccine if supply does not allow,” Landers said. “The exception will be required second doses.”
As of Friday, Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs throughout the state, including in Troy, are offering the vaccine. Supply and appointments are limited.