As Alabama fights vaccine mandates, vaccination rate still lags most of U.S.

Coronavirus

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — As Alabama fights proposed federal mandates for federal workers and employees of larger companies, the state still lags behind most of the country in vaccination rates.

Alabama ranks 48th, with 45 percent of state residents fully vaccinated, ahead of only Wyoming and West Virginia.

The federal mandates being challenged in court are due to go into effect on January 4. The Alabama Legislature passed a law last week looking to protect unvaccinated workers from losing their jobs — requiring employers to offer a religious or medical exemption and banning the firing of those exempt employees. But it’s unclear if the new law will have any effect in the face of the federal mandates.

With the mandates looming, it doesn’t appear there’s a rush in Alabama to get vaccinated.

State figures show vaccines have been down steadily from August, though there was an uptick last month. Those numbers appear to be booster-related.  A Huntsville Hospital spokesperson told News 19 today that the past couple of weeks they are averaging between 850 and 1000 doses per week. But between 90 and 95 percent of those are boosters, not first-time shots. 

Dr. Karen Landers of the Alabama Department of Public Health stressed again today the need for people to get vaccinated to protect their own health. Landers said, the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in Alabama since April are among the unvaccinated. AL.com reported today that as many as 20 percent of Alabama residents currently hospitalized for COVID are vaccinated — but Landers said the vaccine has prevented the worst outcomes for hospitalized patients, compared to outcomes for the unvaccinated.

News 19 asked Dr. Landers what message, if any, seems to be effective in changing people’s minds about getting vaccinated. Based on her response, changing minds on vaccines often comes at a high price.

“It does appear that something that is resonating with people more about getting vaccinated and protecting themselves against covid, is either having a personal experience, such as a family member having a very severe illness or even death,” Landers said. “And then, in addition to that, not only that personal experience, speaking to persons these individuals place trust in. Perhaps their own physician, health care provider, pharmacist.”

Looking at vaccination rates for counties across the U.S. that are similar in size to Madison County finds while Madison is at 54 percent fully-vaccinated residents, Marion County, Fla., Ocala, is at 52 percent; Hamilton County, Tenn., Chattanooga, is at 51 percent and Allen County, Ind., Ft. Wayne, reports 48 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.

Alabama is at 45 percent, fully vaccinated; Jefferson County., 52 percent; Montgomery County, 47 percent; Mobile County, 44 percent and Tuscaloosa County, 39 percent.

In the North Alabama region, none of the counties surrounding Madison County have a fully vaccinated rate above 44 percent.

Regionally, fully-vaccinated rates are: Colbert County, 44 percent; Dekalb County, 30 percent; Franklin County, 40 percent; Jackson County, 44 percent; Lauderdale County, 42 percent; Lawrence County, 43 percent; Limestone County, 33 percent; Marshall County, 41 percent and Morgan County, 39 percent.

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