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Plummeting Alabama vaccination rate worrying health leaders

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in Alabama has fallen to a level not seen since the earliest days of the immunization campaign even though less than 30% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

Statistics from the Alabama Department of Public Health showed Friday that the number of people getting shots in recent days was similar to the rate in January, when vaccine supply was still very limited.

Officials are worried that large numbers of people are simply refusing to get shots, meaning the threat of the new coronavirus will remain higher than necessary.

“It’s very distressing because we have vaccine and we have it in every corner of Alabama,” said Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer.

Several vaccination sites have closed because of the lack of demand, and some areas have considered turning down vaccine shipments. In Opelika, East Alabama Medical Center said “very low demand” and plenty of vaccine supply meant a community clinic would close after giving patients a second round of shots on June 14.

With about 28% of its population fully immunized, Alabama’s vaccination rate is better only than that in neighboring Mississippi. With roughly 11,140 people dead of the illness caused by the new coronavirus, the state’s overall death rate from COVID-19 is the eighth worst in the nation, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Alabama has decreased by 134, a decline of about 33%. But the state’s rate of 210 new cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks was second-worst nationally.

The state has ended its mandatory face mask rule and many businesses have returned to near normal, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether those changes led to the high rate of new cases.

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