Health experts work to increase vaccine availability in North Alabama’s rural communities

Coronavirus

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Health experts are becoming increasingly concerned about ensuring that those living in some of North Alabama’s more rural counties are also able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The rural parts of our state are underserved. There are many people who are minority populations who are particularly disadvantaged,” said Dr. William Curry, a rural healthcare expert at UAB Hospital.

Dr. Curry added many rural counties like Limestone, offer far fewer pharmacies and clinics for people to get the COIVD-19 vaccine. The Alabama Department of Public Health has been working hard to address that issue.

“We are seeing is an increasing amount of vaccine coming into the state we’re seeing increasing number of providers and we see that we’re making tremendous progress so we’re going in the right direction,” said Judy Smith of the ADPH.

Smith says one additional likely reason for the lack of appointments is Alabamians signing up for multiple COVID-19 vaccine waitlists.

“It’s been an issue and you know again you don’t blame people for doing. You know I want it. I’m desperate for it. I want my life back so I’m going to apply everywhere I possibly can. Now one of the things that has happened is it has resulted in a lot of broken appointments a lot of missed appointments in a lot of places,” said Smith.

Health officials say if you do get off a waitlist, you can help out by calling in to cancel your spots on other waitlists. Still, the ADPH says the vaccine is not going to waste, and they have been able to welcome walk-ins in most rural area counties each day. But, Dr. Curry, says appointment availability isn’t the only challenge healthcare workers are facing.

“There has to be community engagement, community willingness to want to get vaccinated. If a person doesn’t want to get vaccinated it doesn’t matter what you make available,” said Dr. Curry.

Overcoming vaccine hesitancy is a challenge both he, and Smith agree, the state is slowly making progress on.

“First of all the proof is in the pudding and as people are seeing people take the vaccine and they’re seeing that there are no ill effects, that hospital numbers are going down, then that just opens up the door to more and more people saying hey you know I do need to move on because I don’t want to be one of the people in the hospital one of the folks in the hospital that’s on a ventilator,” said Smith.

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