‘I’m not going to stop until the job is done.’
That’s Dorothy Oliver, a widowed convenience-store owner in rural western Alabama whose drive to get her small town fully vaccinated has met with a 97% success rate and become the subject of a New Yorker minidocumentary called “The Panola Project,” speaking Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Because the closest COVID-19 vaccination opportunities lay nearly 40 miles away and many locals lacked resources including transportation, a goal was to deliver doses to the people. The documentary follows her phoning and traveling door to door canvassing vaccine status and persuading Panolans to sign up for appointments — eventually securing enough commitments to bring a Moderna
event to a central location in the town, some 150 and 115 miles, respectively, from the metropolises Montgomery and Birmingham.
Eventually, she said, three one-day vaccination events were held.
“We went door to door, talking to them,” Oliver recalled on “Morning Joe” of her efforts with a small team including county commissioner Drucilla Russ-Jackson. “And we didn’t have any problem.”
She observed that only one person had objected to vaccination on political grounds.
“I just felt like I had to do it because the government — nobody does enough in this area,” Oliver says in the documentary (below).
Just 38% of Alabamans are fully vaccinated and 50% have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker. In Sumter County, home to Panola, 36% of the population is fully vaccinated.
The vaccination rate in Panola was 94% in early August, when the New Yorker reported on the project and resulting documentary. The MSNBC morning program reported Wednesday that the rate has since climbed three percentage points.
Oliver told “Morning Joe” that she knows of only a single confirmed death from COVID in the town.