Dr. Scott Harris optimistic Alabama could return to pre-pandemic normalcy by summer

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — As of Monday, everyone in the U.S. who is 16 years and older is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.   

That’s been the case in Alabama for a couple of weeks now, but has it helped in getting more shots in arms? According to State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, even though Alabama remains near the bottom of national rankings for the percentage of vaccinated residents, the system has greatly improved. 

“We were slow out of the gate as you know, and it took us a while to make sure we had enough vaccine in enough places,” Harris said.

Harris said as more vaccines come into the state, the problem becomes more of a demand issue than not enough supply.

“I think we are beginning to run up against vaccine hesitancy. We are seeing resistance on the parts of some people,” he said.

Harris said he is happy with vaccination efforts in many parts of the state, including the Blackbelt region, where rates in some of counties average between 40% and 50%. However, he said more work needs to be done. 

“But we do have hesitancy in some African-American communities in some parts of the state, but not in other parts. We have hesitancy in certain rural communities, or white communities in some parts of the state, but not in others,” he said.

Despite that hesitancy, the state’s top doctor still believes the state is heading in the right direction, despite an increase in mass gatherings.

“We understand as we get more people vaccinated, things are going to open up somewhat. That’s the reason we’re vaccinating people, so I don’t have any complaints about that in general. I would say that people need to be mindful that there are situations they need to be careful,” he said.

As for when the state will return to a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy, Harris noted if the vaccination efforts state strong, that could possibly become a reality by mid-summer. 

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