Alabama will move fully into phase 1c of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan on March 22, and will also include people 55 and older and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris announced Friday.
Additionally, to be included for extended eligibility, are people age 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions, which include, but are not limited to, the following conditions:
Cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies; immunocompromised state, solid organ transplant, obesity, BMI greater than 30, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking, Type 1 and 2 diabetes, other medical conditions as determined by your medical provider.
The following additional critical workers will also be eligible beginning March 22:
Transportation and logistics, waste and wastewater, food service (includes restaurant staff), shelter and housing (construction), finance (bank tellers), information technology and communication, Energy, Legal, Media, public safety (engineers).
“This will probably more than double the number of people in our state who are eligible for vaccine,” Harris told reporters Friday, adding that the decision to expand was made because of the expected increases in doses from the federal government in the coming weeks.
“We’re really very close to having enough vaccine to go around,” Harris said. He believes that within a month to six weeks there will be a plentiful supply in the state.
Asked if the state will meet the May 1 deadline for all adults to have access to vaccines, as announced by President Joe Biden in a speech Thursday evening, Harris said “we intend to.”
“We have been concerned that many people at high risk and others engaged in close contact work have not been eligible to receive the vaccine yet, but with the additional vaccine supply we are better able to meet the needs of Alabama residents,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. “Starting March 22, individuals can be assured of receiving the shots they have been patiently waiting to get.”
Harris cautioned that the state continues to find more cases of COVID-19 variants, and said there have been 71 cases of the UK variant found in Alabama thus far.
“We suspect there are a lot more of those,: Harris said, adding that because the UK variant spreads more easily there is concern it could become the dominant strain.
The state is making strides in getting vaccine into rural areas, were people generally have less access to medical care, and were there are larger populations of Black people, who are at greater risk of complications and death from coronavirus, Harris said.
“As of this week we’re very proud to say that the top nine counties in our state, in terms of percentage of people vaccinated, are all in a Black Belt, and 11 of the top 13 counties are our Black Belt counties,” Harris said.