Alabama gets serious on rural COVID vaccinations, calls on National Guard for help

Published 10:29 am Sunday, March 21, 2021

National Guard members will begin immunizing rural residents against COVID-19 this week as Alabama tries to improve a vaccination rate that’s trailing most of the nation.

Mobile vaccination clinics will be held Tuesday in the cities of Andalusia and Livingston, according to a news release by the state, followed by clinics in Enterprise and Eutaw on Wednesday. Guard teams will provide shots later in the week in Ozark, Greensboro, Abbeville and Marion, and additional clinics are planned elsewhere into April.

The National Guard has two teams that are capable of providing at least 1,000 vaccinations per day. It plans to administer about 8,000 doses per week. Appointments aren’t required, and the shots are free.

Gov. Kay Ivey said the effort will help as the state looks to get past the coronavirus pandemic.

“I encourage everyone eligible to take advantage of this great resource, and please remain patient as we continue working to get our hands on as many doses as we are able from the federal government,” she said in a statement.

While more than 1.3 million doses have been administered in the state, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Alabama and neighboring Georgia are trailing the rest of the United States in the percentage of its adult population that has received at least one dose.

The state is expanding the eligibility rules for vaccinations on Monday to include more frontline workers, residents with certain chronic health conditions, and people 55 and older. The move will add more than 2 million people to the groups who can receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Alabama, roughly doubling the number of people who are eligible.

More than 10,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the state, and more than 510,000 have tested positive for the virus.