By ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News
(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — Alabama continues to struggle with its vaccine rollout, with less than half of the COVID-19 vaccines delivered to the state making it into arms, according to health officials.
While there’s a discrepancy between the vaccine data the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting, both datasets depict a sluggish rollout, with far more doses distributed than administered.
According to the state health department, Alabama has received 772,275 vaccine doses and administered 323,875. The CDC reported that 655,275 doses have been delivered and 278,993 of them administered.
That translates to just 5,690 doses given for every 100,000 people, according to the CDC data, and puts Alabama last in the nation for vaccine distribution. As a point of comparison, West Virginia, which has among the best COVID-19 vaccination rate per capita in the country, has vaccinated 12,533 out of every 100,000 residents as of Jan. 29, according to the CDC.
“We talk to the CDC every day and I stress that even though we might have a difference on data, we are still working together,” Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, told ABC Birmingham affiliate WBMA. According to Landers, the state dashboard updates quicker than the CDC’s website.
Landers said that part of Alabama’s problem is that certain medical facilities ordered too many vaccines, a misallocation that means roughly 4,000 doses need to be moved to facilities in need of that supply. Another issue is that Alabama’s public health infrastructure is notably sparse, experts say. One county in the state has neither a hospital, nor a health department. Then there’s lingering distrust of the medical community linked to the infamous Tuskegee experiment, where doctors denied Black patients treatment for syphilis as part of a medical study in Tuskegee, Alabama.
“That still haunts us today,” Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP told the Washington Post late last year.
Like many governors around the country, Gov. Kay Ivey said Alabama needs more vaccine supply to improve its rollout.
“We have all been frustrated that the supply of vaccine coming from the federal government hasn’t kept up with the demand,” Ivey said in a statement Friday. “To be blunt, we simply haven’t gotten the vaccine that we’ve been promised, and this has created a major backlog of aggravation.”
Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer, responded to criticism from Alabama residents last week about the pace of the rollout. Many of the vaccines that haven’t been administered are reserved for people waiting for their second dose, he explained during a Jan. 21 press conference.
“I think we can also do things faster,” he said. “People certainly have a right to expect that we can do things faster.”
ABC News’ Meredith Deliso contributed to this report.
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