Officials say soon Alabama’s issue will be vaccine participation, not supply

Coronavirus

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — More COVID-19 vaccine is headed to Alabama next week, a week after more people became eligible to receive a dose.

The issue soon will be convincing people to take it, according to Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

Harris said in a Friday morning briefing that the state was getting a one-time bump next week of 42,000 doses — 14,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 28,000 of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine. That will bring next week’s total allocation to 156,730 doses.

The bump comes on the heels of poll findings the Alabama Department of Public Health released Friday finding that there is reluctance among all Alabamians to get the vaccine, and not just minority groups. That’s despite results finding the groups do take COVID-19 seriously.

The primary concern about the vaccine is the speed at which it was developed, according to ADPH’s information. People also are worried about long-term side effects that they believe have not been studied or identified. Other reasons for hesitancy in the polling were lack of trust in government and a general skepticism of vaccines.

The ADPH polling also found that Black Alabamians were highly sensitive to being “targeted,” and Hispanics were worried about deported. Those two groups and Native American groups all had concerns about the cost of the vaccine or not being insured.

Harris said efforts to get the vaccine to Black Belt communities have been hampered this week by weather, but vaccine equity is still a priority. And he expects Alabama to be able to meet President Biden’s directive to have vaccine available for all groups by May 1.

“The real issue is going to be getting people to take it,” Harris said. “We’ve said this several times here, but the script is going to flip completely from a month ago, when people couldn’t find vaccines it seems like no matter how hard they looked, to in April, we’re going to have the opposite problems. We’re going to have a lot of vaccine on the shelf and we’re going to be really trying hard to get people to take it.”

Harris also addressed the recent CDC guidance for schools that allows for students to be 3 feet apart. He said people should understand the eased distance requirement also takes into account consistent face mask wearing, and that the CDC’s close contact definition has not changed.

“You can imagine a situation where you may have more contacts if you have a case; you know, if you have people sitting 3 feet apart now who previously were 6 feet apart,” he said. “That’s just a consideration we want people to think through.”

He also stressed that the expiration of the state’s mask mandate April 9 doesn’t mean people should completely stop wearing them in gatherings, especially as people begin to make plans for the Easter holiday.

“Please be responsible,” Harris said. “Please do the right thing. Please think about those people who are most vulnerable.”

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