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Alabama won’t reach White House vaccination goal

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama continues to have the second lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the United States and will be far short of the White House goal of getting 70% of adults vaccinated by July 4.

Alabama ranks only above Mississippi, according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Alabama, about 36% of the total population of Alabama has received at least one dose of vaccine with most of the vaccinations going to adults.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of having 70% of the adult U.S. population at least partially vaccinated by July 4, a percentage that Alabama will likely be far short of that percentage.

“We won’t get there by July 4 but that does not deter us from encouraging people to get the vaccine,” said Dr. Karen Landers, the state deputy health officer.

Landers said the state had paused vaccine orders as the state tries to use down the existing stockpile. But she said so far the state has not had to return unused doses to the federal government. She said the motto is to “order what we need and use what we have.”

Ryan Easterling, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Public Health, added that the state continues to rotate COVID-19 vaccine stock throughout the state to avoid vaccine being wasted and that small amounts of vaccine are still being ordered as need arises.

Suzanne Judd, an epidemiologist in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health, said the vaccination rates remain too low in the state to eliminate the threat of COVID-19.

“Vaccine hesitancy is very serious right now in Alabama. We really have reached a point that folks are just trickling in to get vaccines,” Judd said.

Judd said an estimated 30% of the Alabama population has antibodies from exposure, and that is providing a “buffer” along with the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated. However, she cautioned that natural immunity is expected to fade at some point.

Health officials had expressed concern about a spike in cases following Memorial Day. However, Dr. Kiersten Kennedy, chief of hospital medicine at the UAB, said so far that hasn’t been the case at her hospital.

“We are experiencing these tiny peaks and valleys. I would say on the whole things have remained pretty stable which is really reassuring,” Kennedy said.

However, she said there has been a change in the median age of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 after the availability of the vaccine. The median age of COVID-19 patients at UAB Hospital has dropped from above 60 to around 40 or 50. State numbers show that people 65 and over are more likely to have been vaccinated than younger age groups.

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