Alabama has the worst coronavirus vaccine distribution rate in the United States, according to CDC data.
Numbers released Friday show that Alabama has administered 2,051 doses per 100K people, the lowest rate in the country. Georgia was the second-lowest with 2,179 per 100K.
But the health department says these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Dr. Karen Landers said people should instead look at the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website, which shows that the state has administered 130,394 doses -- CDC numbers show the state at 100,567.
Even with the updated numbers, the state’s vaccination rate remains very low. On Monday, the state will move into phase 1B, allowing those 75 and older to get their first dose.
Huntsville Hospital will begin vaccinating people at John Hunt Park on Monday. So far, more than 11,000 people have signed up to get vaccinated on the hospital’s website. Only those with appointments will be seen.
Tracy Doughty, Huntsville Hospital’s vice president of operations, said Monday will be a “soft opening” with about 200 doses administered. He said that effort will slowly ramp up to a point where 800-900 will be distributed at the park and Corporate University daily.
With a high demand for the vaccine even before 1B starts, Doughty said an increased trust in the vaccine may be to thank.
“They’re seeing more people on Instagram, Facebook, people from their church have gotten it and they’re still doing well -- haven’t grown horns on their head or anything -- so I think people are getting more comfortable with the vaccine,” he said. “So, as time goes on, you’ll see people accept the vaccine is safe and effective and they’ll be more willing to take it.”
Still, Alabama remains behind the curve of other states. Landers says part of this is due to the fact that we are still waiting on some of the nearly 600,000 doses that have been allocated for the state.
“We don’t have, again, the supply of vaccine that when we look at these numbers from the CDC, it might appear that we have all of this,” she said. “We actually don’t. But we’re going to vaccinate, we’re going to give everything we have.”
Still in the first phase on Friday night, Doughty said the hospital system already has plans in place for mass vaccinations, without appointments, once adequate doses are available.
But doses are still hard to come by. Dr. Landers attributes part of the issue to only having two products (Pfizer and Moderna) available. She said it is her hope that several other vaccines receive emergency use authorization in the coming weeks, which could significantly expedite the vaccination process.
“I anticipate that we could be spring or summer really getting to the general population. I certainly hope it will be shorter, but given the supply and demand that we have right now for widespread usage, it’s going to take a few months,” she said.
The state has “preidentified” sites throughout the state that can be used for mass vaccinations. These sites were selected before the coronavirus pandemic, according to Landers. The sites include large churches, stadiums and civic centers.