Members of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) delivered 204 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to Russell Medical Thursday, the first CAP vaccine delivery in the state of Alabama.
"We have been tasked by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and this is the first delivery," Capt. Barry Colley said. "And it's quite an honor to serve the people of Alabama and this community and its hospitals."
CAP is a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force made up of volunteers, many of them former military. CAP pilots have already been flying vaccines in a few other states since vaccine rollout began, mostly to difficult-to-reach, rural areas.
Colley said he was pleasantly surprised to learn Alexander City's Russell Medical, which has clinics in Dadeville, New Site and Goodwater, would be CAP's first Alabama destination.
"We have a family lake home down in Dadeville and we've been through here the last 35 years," Colley said. "This is kind of second home to us. When my commander told me 'Hey, you got a mission to Alexander City,' it just made me tear up."
Russell Medical director of education Misty Anderson said the vaccines will be given out at some of Russell Medical's rural locations starting Friday.
"We have been able to give vaccines in our community but we haven't been able to keep them coming as quickly as we want to. So this has been an outstanding effort to get into that rural area and to go to the sites," Anderson said. "Folks aren't always able to come out here so we'll be able to go to rural sites."
While Russell Medical received its first Moderna vaccine shipment in December, these will be its first Pfizer vaccines, pharmacist Anderson said. The Moderna vaccines were allocated to Alabama by the federal government and distributed by the state through ADPH.
While Colley and Lt. Col. Dennis Lovin made the delivery by van Thursday, the CAP will start making deliveries by plane across Alabama. Colley said some of those deliveries will be coming into Alex City's Thomas C. Russell Field next week.
Colley said it was an honor to support the vaccine effort.
"This is so important to me personally, of what we're doing, that it makes my emotions betray me," he said.
In addition to the CAP deliveries, Russell Medical is also expecting more vaccines from ADPH next week. Anderson said the hospital is hoping it'll soon be able to announce another mass-vaccination clinic.
Starting Monday, COVID-19 vaccine eligibility will expand in Alabama to people 55 and above, people with high-risk medical conditions and key workers not covered by the previous phases.