On Tuesday, the CDC awarded Alabama more than $44 million to expand coronavirus vaccine programs. It's part of $3 billion set aside to improve vaccine distribution, access and equity.
A significant portion must go to county health departments and community-based organizations, and 75%, which comes to roughly $33 million, has to go to specific programs and initiatives designed to expand vaccine access and acceptance among minorities.
It's a big victory for groups that have been working to expand vaccine accessibility in these communities for months.
"This isn't about 'I'm afraid, I'm hesitant, I don't want to take a vaccine.' Our community's ready to take a vaccine, and we are ready to do our part," Tiffany Whitlow, the co-founder of Acclinate Genetics, said.
Aside from co-founding the Huntsville-based group, Acclinate Genetics, Whitlow also helped launch the #nowincluded initiative, which gives the Black community access to information about the health care industry. She said hearing that so much of the state's funding from the CDC will be used to give minority communities access to the vaccine was a sigh of relief.
"Obviously, all of this work takes resources, so to know that there are intentional resources being allocated to support organizations like ours, UAB and so many other partners at a state level, it honestly just provides just an extra sense of hope," she said.
As of March, only about 14% of African Americans in Alabama had received their first dose of the vaccine, yet, they make up almost 27% of the overall population in the state.
Statistics like these are why members of Whitlow's organization weren't the only ones happy to hear about the state's initiative. State NAACP president Benard Simelton said educating African American communities about the vaccine itself and where to get the vaccine has been a top priority, especially since many still have questions on how they can receive one.
"The biggest thing that I hear is 'where do I go? How do I sign up for the vaccine?'" Simelton said.
Simelton said giving the vulnerable communities access and education when it comes to the vaccine can be life-saving.
"We want everyone to be able to live a long, healthy life and not have a life cut short because of not having the vaccine," he said.
When compared to the rest of the country, Alabama is actually 9th when it comes to vaccinating the most vulnerable populations, and having more funding dedicated to this is expected to help.