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Officials: Black Belt leads state in vaccination percentages

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s poverty-stricken Black Belt has the highest percentage of people getting COVID-19 vaccinations in the state, according to numbers released by health officials Friday.

The Alabama Department of Public Health on Friday released the first county numbers for the percentage of people over age 16 that have received vaccinations. The counties with the highest percentages were in the Black Belt, State Health Officer Scott Harris said. The Black Belt — which gets its name from the dark rich soil — is a high-poverty region of the state with a high-minority population.

“One thing we are proud to see is that the highest percent vaccinated counties are in the Black Belt for the most part. That’s a deliberate effort on our part to reach those most vulnerable counties,” Harris said.

State numbers still show an overall racial disparity as to who is getting vaccinations. Across Alabama about 15% of the shots so far have gone to Black citizens who make up about 26% of the population, according to preliminary numbers.

Alabama on Monday will more than double the number of people eligible to be vaccinated as more frontline workers, residents with certain chronic health conditions, and people 55 and older are added to the eligible groups.

“Probably between half to two-thirds of all the adults in the state are going to be covered at that point. So there will be a significant increase in demand we believe,” Harris said.

Harris said the department conducted surveys to try to gauge vaccine hesitancy and found up to 30% of adults are reluctant to get the vaccine. He said it cuts across racial lines.

“There’s about a third of Alabamians both black and white that are real skeptical about taking the vaccine maybe for different reasons. We know there’s a segment of the population that’s not making it a priority.”

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