This is not a summer cold or a conspiracy. — Rick Bradley, Hartsville, Tenn., resident
This is not a summer cold or a conspiracy. — Rick Bradley, Hartsville, Tenn., resident
'It's Not A Never Thing' — White, Rural Southerners Hesitant To Get COVID Vaccine
"There's nothing inherently unique about living in a rural area that makes people balk at getting vaccinated. It's just that rural areas have a larger share of people in the most vaccine-resistant groups: Republicans and white evangelical Christians," says Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The foundation's latest survey data find that more rural residents have been fully vaccinated than urban dwellers. But this is likely because there haven't been the same long waits in rural areas to get the vaccine. And now the initial demand has tapered to a drip. Currently, the number of rural residents (21%) saying they'll never get the vaccine is twice the number (10%) in urban areas.

... Public health officials in Tennessee expected to face some reluctance when the COVID-19 vaccine finally arrived. But they were surprised to realize that the most stubborn group might be white, largely conservative residents in rural Tennessee.

National polling by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist finds that rural, white Republicans — particularly supporters of Trump's — are among the least likely to get a vaccine. The issue is evident in state-by-state vaccination rates, with Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee trailing the rest of the country. The White House has begun launching new initiatives targeting so-called red states, such as setting up partnerships with NASCAR, professional sports and even country music.

... In many rural communities, scant attention has been paid to batting down rumors or answering vaccine questions. Public health officials in Tennessee and other Southern states have been far more focused on building trust with Black and immigrant groups concentrated in urban areas. And even their outreach in rural communities has targeted those traditionally underserved groups.

But some leaders of rural communities are the ones actively sowing doubts. They include state legislators pushing anti-vaccine legislation and even a few pastors piping up on Sunday mornings.

... Southern states, where vaccination rates are the lowest in the country, have frequently turned to ministers, seeing them as key allies who are trusted at the local level. But it's mostly Black churches, from Mississippi to Georgia, that have agreed to hold informational town halls or organize and host vaccine events.
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