In the race for states to administer Covid-19 vaccines to residents, Alabama has consistently lagged behind.
Alabama administered 10,013 doses for every 100,000 people through Tuesday, the lowest rate among states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, it had one of the highest rates in the U.S. of positive coronavirus tests over the past month at 29.1%, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Several factors are at play, say health officials and specialists. Alabama’s public health system has been eroded by years of underfunding, leaving some counties with understaffed or no health departments at all. Administrative and technological issues, including inappropriate dating programs and outdated software, have hampered the effort.
Alabama’s hotline for vaccine appointments initially fell short, with insufficient lines to handle demand, said Dr. Karen Landers, a district medical officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health. A dating website was launched last week. Last month, a booking failure resulted in people showing up for scheduled appointments at a vaccination event in the Birmingham area, only to find that it was listed by mistake and no one was there.
A large portion of Alabama’s population lives in rural areas with limited health services. Since 2009, seven rural hospitals have closed in the state, part of a broader wave of closures driven by factors including population loss and poverty among patient populations, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services. from the University of North Carolina.