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UAB shows COVID-19 vaccine’s reach into underrepresented communities

A drive-up COVID-19 vaccination site at Parker High School. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)

By Tyler Greer
UAB News

Of the 59,167 vaccination doses delivered by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAB Medicine since mid-December, almost 21 percent of those doses were administered to individuals who self-identified as Black, 67 percent White, 7 percent Asian and almost 3 percent Hispanic or Latino.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted people of color among the “critical population” to vaccinate because they are at “increased risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19,” a nationwide report the agency released on Feb. 1 estimates that only 5.4 percent of those vaccinated are Black. ABC News recently examined 15 states’ data and determined that many are underperforming when it comes to providing vaccines to the Black community.

In Alabama, 27.8 percent of residents are Black.

“From the beginning, we have been purposeful in our planning and outreach to make equity a central focus of our vaccination efforts,” said Sarah Nafziger, M.D., vice president of clinical operations for UAB Hospital. “While our early results are better than the national average with Black communities, we are not satisfied and will continue our efforts to increase outreach among underrepresented groups.”

With UAB administering almost 21 percent of its vaccine allocation to Black individuals, the institution is performing at a rate better than almost every state in the data examined by ABC News.

The breakdown of the 59,167 vaccines UAB has administered is as follows: (all numbers through Tuesday, Feb. 16):

  • 41,075 have received first dose
  • 18,092 have received first and second doses
  • Females: 64.01 percent
  • Males: 35.99 percent
  • Whites: 66.81 percent
  • Black or African American: 20.72 percent
  • Asian: 7.09 percent
  • Hispanic or Latino: 2.97 percent
  • Other/Unknown: 2.38

The 18,092 people who have received first- and second-dose vaccinations through UAB account for 14.4 percent of those in Alabama who have completed the vaccine series.

The 59,167 vaccine doses administered in total by UAB accounts for 10.17 percent of the total number of vaccine doses given in Alabama, when compared to the Alabama Department of Public Health dashboard.

The vaccinations have taken place at community sites established at the Hoover Met and in  downtown Birmingham at three sites: UAB Hospital-Highlands, Parker High School and the Margaret Cameron Spain Auditorium at UAB Hospital. At these sites, UAB has provided vaccinations to ADPH-approved groups, including frontline health care employees from UAB and other hospitals and community health care personnel, EMS personnel, first responders, patients, those in the education sector and other eligible community members.

To date, UAB has provided vaccine to Alabamians living in 61 counties.

As of Feb. 17, 61,000 Alabamians have registered with UAB for a vaccine and are waiting to be vaccinated.

UAB officials say the success in delivering vaccines has been a team effort between the university and the UAB Health System.

“When we brought the proposals to open these community vaccination sites, the leadership of the university and UAB Health System never questioned whether or not UAB should do it,” Nafziger said. “They said, ‘Absolutely, you do whatever is needed to partner with public health groups to make sure we get this done so we can end this pandemic.’ I’m very grateful to our leadership team for allowing us to do this.”

This week’s inclement weather has put a temporary halt on vaccinations at the outdoor Parker High School and Hoover Met sites; those vaccination will resume Thursday and Friday. Everyone originally scheduled for vaccinations at those sites for Feb. 15-17 will be rescheduled for Thursday and Friday, Feb. 18-19.

UAB vaccinated 12,139 people in total last week, and Nafziger said it could provide more, but supplies for Alabama — and everyone — remain an issue.

“We believe we have the capacity to deliver up to 20,000 doses of vaccine per week with the current structure we have in place,” Nafziger said. “But we are not receiving enough vaccine to supply our sites at that level, and our allocations have decreased. We’re going to continue to work with the Alabama Department of Public Health, and when they give us vaccine, we will deliver it quickly and efficiently to eligible people.”

Those currently eligible to be vaccinated as determined by the Alabama Department of Public Health can visit www.uabmedicinevaccine.org to register. Once a registration form is submitted, no further communication will come from UAB until there is an appointment time available; that communication will come from UAB’s scheduling software program called Phreesia to confirm appointment locations and times.