Alabama ranks nearly last in vaccine rollout numbers
For the last few weeks, America has been rolling out the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to meet President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans within his first 100 days in office. Vaccination rates, however, have varied wildly across the nation since each state sets its own rules and regulations governing immunization.
Widespread immunization efforts in the U.S. began on December 14 with federal and state guidelines prioritizing healthcare workers for early receipt. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are the only coronavirus drugs approved for nationwide distribution.
According to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama ranks 48th out of all states in vaccine administration per 100,000 citizens. Neighboring Mississippi and Georgia are ranked 49th and 50th, respectively. Since mid-December, Alabama has received 283,200 vaccine doses, but the state has only administered 57,105 shots to its citizens.
Last Wednesday, in Anniston, Alabama, local seniors flocked to the Anniston City Meeting Center during the early morning hours to receive vaccinations under Alabama’s 1-b designation after the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency announced that free vaccines would be available. Alabama’s 1-b designation references “persons in identified age groups at risk for COVID-19 associated morbidity and mortality” and “essential workers at highest risk for work related exposure.” The clinic was scheduled to operate from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, but shortly after 9:00 am, clinic organizers announced that doses had run out and those remaining in the long line would have to return at a later date, leaving many of the elderly citizens visibly upset.
The following day, in nearby Gadsden, a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic ran out of its vaccine supply within 3 hours of opening. The clinic, serving emergency medical service (EMS) workers, fire and law enforcement officials, and frontline healthcare providers, was overwhelmed by the turnout. Lines at the venue stretched for over a mile and many hopeful vaccine recipients were turned away before receiving an injection. Despite challenges to meet the demand for vaccines, Etowah County, where Gadsden is located, is expanding vaccination services to incarcerated individuals as well as residents of homeless shelters and group homes.
The Alabama Public Health Department’s statistics show that 42,810 vaccine doses have already been administered to Alabamians. Still, the state lags behind nearly all others in immunization numbers. Nationwide, over 8 million vaccine doses have been administered and 272,429 people have completed the two-dose vaccination regimen according to numbers from Bloomberg News and the CDC.
So far, only two vaccines have been approved for emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: one developed in a joint effort between Pfizer and BioNTech and another developed by Moderna. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been cleared for use in Canada, Mexica, and parts of Central America. It has also received clearance throughout Europe and the Middle East. The Moderna vaccine has been approved for use in the United Kingdom as well. Already, vaccination campaigns have begun in at least 42 countries. Limited trials for both vaccines have suggested that inoculation can reduce COVID-19 infections by up to 95%.