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Rural Americans More Vaccine Hesitant, Analysis Shows

Rural Americans stand out as the most hesitant to get a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new analysis, and those views present a significant challenge in trying to get a mass vaccination effort underway.

More than a third of those living in rural communities say they won’t or probably won’t get a vaccine. About a quarter of suburban and urban residents had the same hesitancy, according to the report from the KFF Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor, a project of Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), which developed it to track the public’s attitudes and experience with the vaccines being developed to protect against Covid-19.

“With the pandemic’s toll hitting rural communities hard, the findings from the December KFF Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor are a cause for concern,” the authors observe.

Pie chart showing Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy among rural residents

“Individuals living in rural areas in the U.S. are significantly less likely to say they will get a COVID-19 vaccine that is deemed safe and available for free than individuals living in suburban and urban America,” the report says.

Less concerned with Covid-19

Rural residents’ views on getting vaccinated align with their perception of the pandemic overall, according to the analysis. Four in 10 rural residents say they are not worried that they or someone in their family will get sick from Covid-19 and half believe the seriousness of the threat has been “generally exaggerated.”

While these views present a challenge to nurse practitioners and others treating these populations, there was a glimmer of good news in the report for healthcare providers.

Faith in their providers

Like their urban and suburban counterparts, rural residents said they would put their faith in vaccine information coming from their own healthcare provider, with 86 percent saying that they trust their provider to provide them reliable information about Covid-19 vaccines.

“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,” wrote the authors.  “Effective messages need to be delivered by trusted messengers and take into account these strongly held beliefs in order to have successful vaccine uptake in rural America.”

Among those beliefs is a conviction among rural residents that getting a Covid-19 vaccine is more of a personal choice (62 percent) than part “of everyone’s responsibility to protect the health of others” (36 percent).

In contrast, more than half of urban residents (55 percent) and nearly half (47 percent) of suburban residents see getting a vaccine as part of everyone’s responsibility.

Read the full report here.