Jan 12, 2021 - Health

The challenge of vaccinating rural America

Data: KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

Rural Americans are especially hesitant to receive a coronavirus vaccine, and only a highly tailored outreach campaign is likely to change that.

The big picture: Even as the coronavirus has surged throughout rural America, most people who live in those areas don’t see vaccination part of a social responsibility to help protect others.

By the numbers: In our KFF polling, 35% of rural Americans say they probably or definitely will not get vaccinated, compared to 26% of urban Americans.

  • Rural Americans are less worried than their urban counterparts that someone in their family will get sick from the virus, and they're more likely to say the pandemic is exaggerated.

Between the lines: Many people in rural America are part of President Trump's base, but partisanship alone does not fully explain their vaccine hesitancy.

  • 62% of rural residents see getting vaccinated as a personal choice, compared with just 36% who see it as part of their responsibility to protect the health of others in the community.

My thought bubble: Addressing this hesitancy will require convincing rural Americans about the seriousness of the pandemic, and then that the vaccine is a way to protect them, their families and their way of life. 

  • As neighbors are vaccinated, some of the hesitancy we see in rural America may fade away.
  • But it will require very targeted digital messaging to reach these more conservative, vaccine-resistant rural populations, including targeted ad buys on Fox News, Newsmax, OANN and other information channels they trust.

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