Alabama’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts ongoing

Ala. state health officer gives COVID-19 update Friday morning

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris provided updates on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts Friday, saying efforts are ongoing but that severe weather has played a role in limiting some turnout.

In the last year, Alabama has confirmed 513,580 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10,523 deaths from the virus.

To date, the state has administered over 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. Harris said Alabama is getting between 110,000 and 120,000 first doses of vaccine each week but has learned that in the next week there will be a one time bump in deliveries from two manufacturers.

Increased production and delivery means Alabama will get an extra 14,000 doses of Pfizer’s drug and an extra 28,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one shot medication.

With more product, the Alabama Department of Public Health is able to add more providers to give residents around the state better access to the shots.

Currently, ADPH has 740 providers who either have product on hand or in transit. Further, every provider who has enrolled and gone through ADPH’s verification process will have some doses to distribute by the end of next week, Harris said.

The state health officer praised the Biden administration for allocating $92 million in American Rescue Plan funding to go toward Alabama community health centers.

Harris also noted that efforts to vaccinate rural areas is continuing, with the state’s Black Belt region having been especially well represented for clinics.

The Alabama National Guard began the effort to vaccinate residents in rural counites this week with the ability to give up to 1,000 shots daily. Harris said the turnout at some of the clinics has not been as high as he’d hoped.

Listing off the counties targeted so far, he said most are providing shots in the 500 range, well below capacity. One county did give around 800 shots. Still, Harris said no vaccine has been wasted and that it remains available in those communities.

Thursday’s severe weather prompted the closure of multiple health departments and a mobile clinic, but that should be rescheduled soon.

Harris also discussed the state’s data dashboard, indicating information on race and ethnicity data has not been updated since last week because of technical issues that are still being addressed. He also said the state is preparing to make some changes to its color coded risk indicator dashboard.

Currently, Pike County is in the “very high risk” category, one of only two in the state rated in this category.

While the state’s COVID-19 case numbers are “as good” as we saw at the start of the pandemic, Harris has previously stated it is too soon to tell the future of the pandemic. Some states have seen slight upticks in the number of cases, though that hasn’t been the case so far for Alabama.

The state is still monitoring for COVID-19 variants with Harris confirming Alabama has confirmed at least 113 cases, mostly of the UK variant, that it is studying with private labs.

Alabama’s mask mandate expires on April 9, meaning the state will not require people to use masks or businesses to enforce use of them. It will be a matter of personal responsibility.

Harris said despite the mandate coming to an end, he believes many businesses will continue to enforce their own mask policies and urged residents to continue being responsible and wearing them.

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