The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Alabama has dropped by nearly half in the last two weeks, and public health officials are concerned it means fewer people are seeking out those vaccines.
Alabama’s seven-day average of doses administered was 18,825 Friday, which was a 43 percent decrease from the high of 32,988 set on April 13.
While older Alabamians are vaccinated in larger percentages, few younger people have been vaccinated, and that concerns Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Approximately 47 percent of Alabamians aged 55 to 64 have received at least one dose of vaccine, 67 percent of those aged 67 to 74 have and 72 percent of those 75 and older, but just 25 percent of Alabamians aged 16 to 54 have, according to ADPH.
Landers told APR on Thursday that the state clearly needs to get more young people vaccinated, and that the younger age group likely has more questions about the vaccines.
“I think there’s a lot of vaccine available out there now and we’re continuing to reach out to various groups, and certainly reaching out to the younger groups on social media, and local leaders and local influencers to try to get that message across,” Landers said.
One talking point Landers said may encourage younger people to seek out vaccines is that two weeks after being fully vaccinated they no longer would have to quarantine after exposure to a known COVID-19 case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released new guidance that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks while outdoors, except in certain crowded situations, and can visit with other vaccinated people indoors without masks or social distancing.
UAB News on Wednesday reported that the number of people receiving a first-dose vaccine at UAB’s four community vaccination sites has dropped 78 percent in three weeks.
“It means we still need many more people to get vaccinated, because enough Alabamians have not received the vaccine to help us end the pandemic,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, M.D., vice president of Clinical Services at UAB, speaking to UAB News. “It also means that, if the number of people coming to our sites continues to decline, we will have to close our sites much sooner than expected. We will be at our sites as long as the demand is there; but we are seeing the demand taper off, and we are watching it very closely.”
All of UAB’s sites are now accepting people without an appointment, but those who wish to make appointments for specific dates and times may do so at uabmedicinevaccine.org.
To date, 1,125,426 Alabamians are fully vaccinated, and 2.5 million doses have been administered statewide. Alabama has administered the least doses per 100,000 people in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris has said the state’s ranking is due in part to a slow rollout initially, with few providers able to store and administer the vaccines.
While the numbers of vaccinations being administered is declining, new cases of COVID-19 are on the rise.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris in a press release Thursday noted that the state’s percent positivity — the percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive — was 5.5 percent, which was higher than it has been seen since March 6, and there had been a 1 percent increase in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, compared to the previous two weeks.
“I really feel that could be attributed to persons being tired of COVID,” Landers said. “Knowing that our numbers have gone down, abandoning their mask in situations where they shouldn’t abandon it.”
Landers noted that while Gov. Kay Ivey allowed her statewide mask order to expire April 9, Ivey encouraged the public to continue wearing masks, and Ivey herself still wears hers.