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Study finds rural residents may be more hesitant to get COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 10:21 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 23:21:13-05

Your willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19 might differ depending on where you live, according to to a recent study.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found 31 percent of people in rural areas report they will definitely get the vaccine, compared to more than 40 percent of urban and suburban respondents. It surveyed more than 1,600 people and it published its data last Thursday in its Vaccine Hesitancy in Rural America report.

In a summary of the study, the authors found, "Vaccine hesitancy among rural residents is more than just partisanship and is strongly connected to their views of the severity of the coronavirus and the reasons for getting vaccinated."

The study shows researchers found 62 percent of rural residents report they see getting the COVID-19 vaccine as a personal choice rather than a responsibility to the health of the community. The study found 55 percent of urban and 47 percent of suburban residents believe getting a COVID-19 vaccine is part of "everyone's responsibility."

"Given the fact that most rural Americans view getting vaccinated for coronavirus as a personal choice rather than a collective responsibility, information that helps individuals decide that getting vaccinated is the right choice for them and their families may be more effective than messages that call on people to get vaccinated for the good of the community at large," said Liz Hamel, a KFF vice president wrote in a statement to TMJ4 News.

Ann Lewandowski is the founder of Wisconsin Immunization Neighborhood, a statewide coalition for advocacy and information about vaccines.

"What we know is sometimes people in rural residences might have different value structures, and sometimes public health is not good at talking with them," Lewandowski said.

She believes public health advocates have to better pitch the COVID-19 vaccine.

"In some areas you might say, well, it's sort of like buckling your baby into a seat belt," Lewandowski said. "It also might be sort of like, getting a vaccine is sort of like making a decision to drive drunk, that is something that we do put restrictions on because it places others at risk."

"It's really finding those trusted sources of information in these communities and talking with them about why are you reluctant, and why are you resistant," Lewandowski said. "Addressing that, helping that person to get vaccinated, and to become an advocate," Lewandowski said. "As we get closer to heard immunity what I know is that I can embrace those that I love, and that's a huge statement."

The study also found 86 percent of rural respondents say they trust their own doctors about COVID-19 vaccine information, while smaller percentages say they trust their public health department, the Centers for Disease Control or Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Lewandowski says that's partly why public health advocates work hard to provide messaging resources for the health care community.

"So when their patients come in and say, well, did you get vaccinated? And they can say, yes I did, and here’s why," Lewandowski said.

As of Wednesday, state health data shows 176,165 doses of the vaccine have been administered so far.

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