Alabama health officials: mass outbreak of COVID unlikely despite lowest vaccination rates in the nation

Coronavirus

MONTGOMERY, Ala (WIAT) – Alabama has reached a new milestone in efforts to vaccinate its residents, but it’s not a good one: the percentage of residents vaccinated is the lowest in the nation.

According to the CDC, only 33.3 percent of Alabamians have been fully vaccinated, but health leaders say it’s unlikely those numbers will change dramatically in the coming weeks.

“I think there is just a lot of Alabamians that have not made up their mind, and there are some that have made up their mind they are never taking a vaccine,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.  

Harris said it’s frustrating that more Alabamians have not chosen to get a vaccine despite it being widely available. 

“We know we still have deaths reported in our state every single day, and almost every single one of those is preventable,” Harris said.

Harris said local and state officials have tried numerous incentive campaigns to get people to roll up their sleeves.  But he pushes back against critics who say the state should engage in a more aggressive campaign like a vaccine lottery.

“What incentive programs do you know that are working anywhere in the country?” Harris asked. “You know Ohio did a million-dollar lottery and they bumped their rates by about 9% for a week or so and then it went back to right where they were.”

The new Delta variant is also suspected to be the driving force behind increased hospitalization rates in the last few weeks, which comes as no surprise to the head of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Don Williamson.

“So, if you add low rates of protection with a highly infectious virus you can very easily predict increasing cases,” Williamson said.

Williamson, along with Harris, believes a combination of those who have been vaccinated or at least partially vaccinated and those who have some natural protection due to previous infection will prevent another massive outbreak statewide. 

But he believes large social gatherings like concerts or even sporting events could lead to localized hotspots.

“I can absolutely envision some small hospital in a local community being overwhelmed,” Williamson said.

According to the Alabama Hospital Association, 94 percent of all hospitalizations due to COVID in the state are people who have not been vaccinated.

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