DECATUR, Ala. – The FDA authorized emergency use for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those ages 12 and up. According to Alabama health officials, the state’s vaccination rate has the chance to drastically improve. They hope opening vaccine eligibility will help.
12-year-old Syrenity Malveaux is a 7th grader at Liberty Middle School. She came to a walk-in clinic held at Westide Missionary Baptist Church to receive her covid-19 vaccine, now that she’s eligible.
“[I got vaccinated] to keep people safe and to keep me safe so I can get back to playing sports and going to school,” she said.
The Biden administration announced earlier this month, states with low vaccination rates are at risk of losing their vaccine allotment to states with more demand.
Alabama ranks second to last, only ahead of Mississippi, for administering the fewest number of doses per 100,000 people, according to the latest CDC data.
Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health hopes that with the new eligible group ages 12-15, that could change for the state. Landers says she also hopes getting more people vaccinated will keep the number of new COVID-19 cases down.
“We are having some good progress right now, but we are not going to sustain this in the fall and winter if we do not have more people vaccinated and higher level of immunity,” Dr. Landers said.
The church wanted to host their community clinic for a second time in an effort to bring in more community members who may have been on the fence about the vaccine in April.
“Westside has been a part of this community for many many years,” Westside First Lady Baraka Truss said. “Our church is opening our doors to our community that we serve and allowing those people to feel comfortable enough to come into our church setting and get vaccinated.”
The church teamed up Decatur-Morgan Hospital as well as Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and The Links, Incorporated; two service-oriented groups who also want to see an increase in vaccinations. They say bringing the clinic to the people is a way to help more fearful patients feel at ease.
“I think one of the biggest challenges, especially in communities of color, is the familiarity with not only the environment, but with other people that have gotten their vaccinations, are doing well,” Sigma Pi Phi chapter President Everett Brooks said.
“More opportunities like this will work because you’re removing the barriers most people would complain about or the barriers they’re unable to get around,” The Links co-chair Health and Human Services Committee Dr. Debbie Redmond-Hyder said.
The Links, Incorporated co-chair Dr. Belinda Savage-Edwards reminds the community: “The pandemic is not over and the best way we can do our part is to get vaccinated.”