The governor of Alabama, the least vaccinated state in the United States, has blamed “unvaccinated people” for a recent increase in Covid-19 cases.
Kay Ivey said “people are supposed to have common sense” when a reporter asked her what it would take for more people in the state to get vaccinated.
“It’s time to start blaming unvaccinated people, not ordinary people. It’s the unvaccinated people who let us down, ”she told a press conference on Friday.
When asked if she felt it was her responsibility, as governor, to try to help bring the situation under control, Ivey said, “I’ve done everything I can do.”
“I can encourage you to do something, but I cannot force you to take care of yourself,” continued the Republican governor.
The comments may represent some of Ivey’s harshest words about the late vaccine rollout in his state, but also highlight the swirling debate in the United States between encouragement and mandates on issues such as wearing masks and vaccinations.
Several states have taken steps to ban so-called vaccine passports or prohibit workplaces from requiring employees to be vaccinated. Alabama is one of them.
Ivey signed a bill in May to ban public institutions and private companies from requiring vaccine passports. But Fort Rucker, a state military base, this month ordered troops to prove they had been vaccinated so they can be exempted from wearing face masks in the field.
Alabama has fully immunized 33.9% of its population, the lowest level of coverage in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, one of the state’s star college football teams has successfully vaccinated nearly 90 percent of its players, according to its coach.
Public health officials have warned for weeks that communities with low vaccination rates are most vulnerable to Covid-19, and in particular to the more transmissible Delta variant. Several states with low immunization coverage, such as Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi, have some of the highest per capita rates of new coronavirus cases in the United States.
Alabama averaged about 19.5 new cases per 100,000 over the past week, according to the CDC. This is the ninth highest per capita rate among U.S. states and its highest level of daily infections since mid-February.