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Vaccine Hesitancy In Rural America Threatens To Prolong Pandemic, Analysis Finds

Credit: Bastian Weltjen / Adobe Stock

About a third of Americans living in rural areas say they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The hesitance of 35% of rural residents stands out compared to the 27% of suburban and 26% of urban residents who say they'd probably or definitely forego a vaccine deemed safe and effective and available for free.

Rupali Limaye, an epidemiologist with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says 35% of rural people not getting vaccinated would pose a serious threat to ending the pandemic.

"When we're having huge swathes of the population essentially telling us that they're not going to get the vaccine, then that means that we're still going to have the virus circulating," she said.

The analysis also found that when it comes to changing people's minds, the vast majority of rural residents say they would trust vaccine information from their own doctor or health care providers.

"The problem that we are facing, I think, particularly with rural communities, is that people don't have a doctor that they go to anymore," Limaye said.

Additionally, 50% of rural residents say they believe the threat COVID-19 poses has been "generally exaggerated" in the news.

Finally, most rural residents - 62% - view getting vaccinated as mostly a personal choice rather than part of everyone's responsibility to protect the health of others. However, that's just not how vaccine science works. That's because when you get vaccinated, you make it harder for germs to travel between you and your community.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2021 Wyoming Public Radio

Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. She is currently a Masters candidate in American Studies and will defend her thesis on female body hair in contemporary American culture this May. Before graduate school, she earned her BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, her bicycle, swimming in rivers and lakes, and most any dog.
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