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Vaccine concerns in rural America could have an impact on herd immunity

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 9:22 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 25, 2021 at 9:56 AM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - More than one in five rural Americans do not want to get vaccinated against COVID-19. A new poll from the de Beaumont Foundation suggests reluctance in rural communities could be a communication issue. Health care professionals say a history of skepticism needs to be addressed.

“There’s a great concern going ahead,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association.

Morgan says access to the vaccine is one issue for rural areas, but hesitation when it comes to getting the shots when they are available is a more complicated problem.

“Among rural communities, generally speaking there’s a distrust of government activities,” said Morgan.

Morgan says the situation is made worse by the fact that many rural Americans are at higher risk of getting very sick from the coronavirus. He thinks more health care providers getting access to the vaccines and spreading the word will help remedy the concerns.

“We need to make sure that we’re hearing from trusted resources in these rural communities about the safety of these vaccines,” said Morgan.

Dr Brian Castrucci, president of the de Beaumont foundation, says the focus needs to be on better communication after his organization found 37 percent of rural Americans will not get the vaccine.

“We have to take them as a group that we need to be very thoughtful about,” said Castrucci.

The epidemiologist says the concerns of rural Americans should not be dismissed, but respectfully addressed. He says there is fear surrounding how quickly scientists developed the vaccines and leaders need to assure these groups that no corner cutting happened in the process.

Castrucci argues health providers can serve as role models and also stress to patients that the vaccines are both safe and effective. He also says presenting vaccines as a gateway to widespread economic resurgence is an effective talking point, as opening the economy is important to people in these areas.

“We just have to keep talking to people and making sure they are hearing these messages. Because misinformation is going to fill in any silence that is there,” said Castrucci.

The U.S. has administered nearly 70 million vaccine doses.

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