Vaccination rates in rural America lagged urban counties during the first four months of the nation’s concerted immunization push as challenges such as lack of access and vaccine hesitancy persisted, a new study found.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis released Tuesday found 39% of rural adults received at least one vaccine dose, compared with 46% of urban adults. Rural vaccination rates also were lower than urban rates among younger adults, seniors, men and women.
Alan Morgan, CEO of National Rural Health Association, said the nation’s hundreds of small towns are vulnerable. Not only do rural communities often lack the health care resources of bigger cities, they also have a population more susceptible to severe outcomes.
“The moment we’re in right now is overcoming vaccine hesitancy in a rural context,” Morgan said. “That’s the battle at hand.”
The analysis counted vaccination rates among adults who received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of April 10 in 49 states and Washington, D.C.
In a possible sign rural residents could not access vaccines as easily as urban dwellers, about 15% of rural residents traveled outside their county to get a shot.
Experts said the early trend is concerning because rural residents face a greater risk of infection, severe illness or death from COVID-19.
“The counties that have lower uptake in the vaccines are also the ones who have been disproportionately hit by all those negative outcomes related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Daniel Derksen, director of the Arizona Center for Rural Health at the University of Arizona.
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