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Health care leaders push for greater vaccine turnout rates amid slowdown of appointments

Updated: Apr. 23, 2021 at 11:47 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - More than 981,000 Alabamians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, health care leaders with ADPH and some Alabama doctors say the numbers are still much lower than they should be.

The priority right now is getting more younger people on board to get their shots. Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Ali Hassoun said busting misconceptions is key if we want to move forward.

A common misconception he’s heard is that the vaccine is not safe because it’s under emergency use authorization. But according to Hassoun, there are different phases in every research study and the COVID-19 vaccines went through each required phase without cutting corners.

“What people need to understand is, any medicine or vaccine, when it gets approved, even through emergency use authorization, went through all the required rules in the studies,” Hassoun said.

Hassoun also said funding and resources during pandemics are ramped up significantly, which allows researchers to develop vaccines much faster than they normally could.

“During a pandemic, you can do and definitely study effectively everything and you can finish it within that period of time. And I can tell you from now on, if there is enough funding and willingness of people to do it, you can do it faster in compared to the pre-COVID era,” Hassoun said.

Hassoun believes there are variety of ways to increase vaccination rates in the state, starting with involvement from political and religious leaders. He is also an advocate for universities requiring their students to get their vaccines.

Hassoun does not believe there will be a surge in COVID-19 cases like there was in December and January, but he is concerned the virus will mutate over time if vaccinations don’t increase quickly.

“The more chance we give to the virus, the more mutation we are going to have,” Hassoun said. “The longer it stays around, the more transmission of this mutation we are going to have. And with that, we might end up with a surge. When this can happen, we don’t know. That is why we really want to push as much as we can with vaccination.”

Dr. Karen Landers from the Alabama Department of Public Health also believes vaccination numbers are lower than they should be at this point, particularly among the younger population.

In addition to educating the public about the vaccine, she said having multiple opportunities and flexibility in scheduling must be a priority.

“This is starting to creep up a little bit and unless we have higher percentage of persons vaccinated, we are at risk to have a surge of cases, specifically being aware of the UK variant, which we see in Alabama now…We know that it’s 20 to 30 percent more transmissible,” Landers said.

Landers is hopeful more people will sign up to get their shots soon. If you are interested, click the link to see available appointments at Huntsville Hospital: https://www.huntsvillehospital.org/covid-19-vaccination.

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