Over one-third of eligible Alabamians have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, including over two-thirds of seniors, state health officer Dr. Scott Harris said in a live briefing Friday.
With 1,368 vaccination centers in the state and shipments of first doses arriving every week, the battle has shifted from availability to vaccine hesitancy, Harris said.
"I think the people who really wanted the vaccine as quickly they could get it, they've already gotten it," Harris said.
As of Friday, 36% of Alabamians 16 and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. Just over 28% of the 3.9 million eligible Alabamians are now fully vaccinated.
"Vaccine is widely available," Harris said. "We don't see delays or difficulties in getting a vaccine."
"I don't want to be glib and say there are no barriers anymore," he added, but "in terms of the absolute number of doses in our state we have plenty to go around."
Harris said the state is working on reaching the remaining 64% who may have access issues, sending its National Guard to some of the harder-to-reach counties. The state has also started a door-to-door campaign to convince those still hesitant.
Harris also clarified the guidance for those already fully vaccinated.
"There are some real tangible benefits to being vaccinated," he said, including not having to wear masks as often.
Harris said it's now safe for fully vaccinated people to go mask-less indoors among other fully vaccinated people or children. Masks are also unnecessary outdoors in "just about all occasions." However, Harris still advised wearing a mask in public places where one may not know who is or isn't vaccinated.
Alabama cases remain comparatively low with 3,859 new cases statewide in the last 14 days, according to Alabama Department of Public Health data. At its peak, Alabama was recording more than 4,000 cases per day. At the current low rate, there isn't enough data to observe any correlation between cities that still have mask mandates and lower case counts, Harris said, but he did not deny the effectiveness of masks.
"Cases are low everywhere right now, thankfully, so I don't have information that there's a direct correlation there," he said. "(But) I don't think there's any reasonable person who still thinks masks don't work."