As the United States rolls out COVID-19 vaccines, some Southern states are lagging behind.
As of Friday, six states in the Southeast had among the nation’s lowest rates of vaccine doses administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have all given out fewer than 3,000 doses of the vaccine per 100,000 residents, data show.
Those rates are some of the lowest in the country.
States with the highest rates include Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia, where more than 6,000 doses have been administered per 100,000 people.
So what’s behind the lag in parts of the South?
One reason could be that some Southern states are receiving fewer vaccine doses.
Nationwide, the distribution rate in South Carolina was the second-lowest in the nation, at 6,808 vaccine doses per 100,000 residents. Mississippi also had among the lowest rates in the country, CDC data show.
In Georgia and other states, vaccination centers have been flooded with calls and appointments as some experts warn there may not be enough supply to meet demand.
In North Carolina, a survey revealed some factors that county health department officials say made it difficult to administer the first phase of shots. Those included having to limit the number of patients to allow for social distancing and getting little time to plan for vaccine allotments, according to the N.C. Watchdog Reporting Network.
Earlier this month, health officials in South Carolina partially blamed the state’s slow vaccine administration rate on a rise in coronavirus cases.
“One of the things we need people to do to help speed up the utilization or the administration of the vaccine is for everyone to do their part to lower the spread of this virus, which is at record levels that we haven’t seen before in our state,” Brannon Traxler, the interim public health director for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, said on Jan. 4. “It will help remove the burden from our hospitals and other health care providers that they’re currently experiencing, and so that will allow more health care workers to be available to administer vaccines.”
While vaccine rollout plans vary from state to state, the federal government has recommended giving priority to essential workers, older adults and people with underlying conditions. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer require two doses, given about three weeks apart.
In the CDC data, Southern states weren’t the only ones labeled among the slowest to administer vaccines.
Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada and Wisconsin also gave out fewer than 3,000 doses of the vaccine per 100,000 residents, according to a nationwide map on the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.
Overall, the state with the top rate for administering vaccines is West Virginia. While all other states signed onto federal partnerships with chain pharmacies, West Virginia took control of distributing vaccines, NPR reported.
“We have a lot of independent pharmacies or smaller pharmacies that are in the more rural communities, so in order to get the vaccine out to some of those areas, we needed to follow something a little bit different,” pharmacist Gretchen Garofoli said, according to the news outlet.
Nationwide, data show 31 million doses have been distributed, and 12 million have been administered. Roughly 330 million people live in the United States.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. infectious disease expert, said the nationwide rollout “has not worked as smoothly as possible” and expects “a greater degree of coordination” when President-elect Joe Biden takes office, McClatchy News reported.