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Huntsville doctors urge vaccinations as COVID-19 cases rise

Published on July 29, 2021

A young woman receives a vaccination in her right arm

COVID-19 infections are on the rise again in Alabama, and doctors are issuing a call to action for vaccines.

During a City of Huntsville Zoom forum moderated by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, three doctors expressed concerns about the rate of infections caused by the delta variant.

At 34%, Alabama’s vaccination rate is the lowest in the U.S., but its COVID-19 positivity rate of 18.5% is the highest. Of Alabama’s 67 counties, Madison County has the highest rate of fully vaccinated individuals at 38%, with more than 40% of residents having received at least one dose.

“If there is any way for you to prevent your child, your family member from getting sick, getting complications, why wouldn’t you do that?” asked Dr. Kym Middleton, a Huntsville Hospital pediatric hospitalist. “There’s a low likelihood of getting in a car wreck, but you still wear a seatbelt. If there’s anything you can do, I would recommend doing it to try to protect you and your loved ones.”

Miss the latest COVID-19 forum? Click here to watch now.

Roger Smalligan, an internist and regional dean of the UAB School of Medicine in Huntsville, said he’s seen too many patients suffer from complications of the virus. He added hospital workers are again having to don protective gear to treat critically ill patients, most of whom are unvaccinated.

He said residents should be concerned by increasing infections. A month ago, he said, there were only 200 COVID-19 patients statewide. This week, that number stood at 2,700. Locally, the numbers are also rising. There were 28 COVID-positive patients hospitalized in North Alabama last Friday, but that number rose to 38 on Monday and 58 on Wednesday.

Smalligan explained that while there is hesitancy about the vaccine, numerous medical experts and trials indicate that any side effects from the vaccine outweigh the risk of getting the virus.

“Go get the vaccine today,” he said, noting physicians and pharmacies across North Alabama continue to have plentiful supplies of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. “It’s very easy to book an appointment.”

When discussing the need for booster shots, Smalligan said he doesn’t believe vaccinated individuals need another shot at this time, but that may change.

Dr. Aruna Arora, neurologist and president of the Madison County Medical Society, implored anyone who is skeptical about the vaccine to talk to a trusted physician. She also praised Huntsville City Schools’ decision to require all students and adults to wear masks at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

“We’re not trying to fear-monger anybody,” Arora said. “We’re trying to protect the public.”

If you still need a COVID-19 vaccine, you can book an appointment on huntsvillehospital.org or visit vaccines.gov to sign up at a neighborhood pharmacy. Citizens can also drop by the Madison County Health Department on 301 Max Luther Drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For the latest news and information about the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the City of Huntsville’s COVID-19 page.