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Network of health providers widen COVID-19 vaccinations in rural Alabama

Pickens County is the latest spot to be served by a coalition of health centers aimed at providing COVID-19 vaccinations in rural area. The Alabama Area Health Education Centers Network is instituting a wide-ranging plan to bring COVID-19 vaccines to rural communities in the state. The group began vaccination clinics in Coosa and Tallapoosa counties last month.

Alabama Public Radio focused on the concerns about coronavirus vaccinations in rural counties as far as back as February. Back then, Alabama Department of Public Health director Doctor Scott Harris told reporters that along with mask wearing and social distancing, making sure rural communities were included in the vaccination effort was a key concern.

“There are a lot of places we need to send vaccines that are never going to be quick, fast, efficient ways of getting out vaccine," he said. "There are rural areas of the state that have low volume providers and yet its important we reach those communities as well. We certainly are trying to balance giving things out as quickly as possible.”

Overall, Alabama is still lagging behind the rest of the nation in terms of the percentage of its population getting at least one shot of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson products. Alabama has immunized only about twenty five percent of its residents, which is behind Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee. New Mexico is the national leader with almost 42% of its population being vaccinated.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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