John Rogers waited months after being eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. It was only after talking with friends that the 66-year-old retiree from the rural camp of Spencer County, Kentucky, was convinced to take the plunge.
“They said, ‘You know, vaccination can’t be 100%, but if you have COVID, you’re in bad shape,” Rogers said. “You can die from it.”
With the nation barely missing President Joe Biden’s goal of dispensing at least one blow to 70% of all American adults by the fourth of July, public health officials in places like Spencer County have shifting the focus away from mass vaccination clinics to get more information in a more targeted way about the benefits of inoculation.
Health departments have offered the vaccine at concerts, parades and fairs and plan to make it available at back-to-school events. They encouraged local doctors to raise the issue with patients and promoted beatings through printed materials and social media.
The hope is that word of mouth will alleviate the fears and misperceptions about the vaccine and change people’s minds, one person at a time if necessary.
It is particularly important in places like Spencer County, an area of lush green hills and farmland southeast of Louisville, where the state reports that about 22% of eligible adults are at least partially vaccinated. Public health officials think the numbers are improving and may already be higher.
Biden administrators are increasingly turning their attention across the country to about 55 million unvaccinated adults considered persuasive, a group they have called the “mobile medium.”
Many of those selected are under 30, an age group that has a particularly low vaccination rate. But they also include people like Rogers, who said many people in his community are reluctant to receive beatings because they “don’t trust the government alone.”
Rogers, who worked for a packaging supplier in nearby Shelbyville, said he has shaken skepticism and that he now expects a summer of “things going as normal as they can be.”
At the national level, resistance to vaccination tends to increase further in conservative and rural areas of the country. Overall, 49% of all Kentuckers received at least one dose, compared with about 55% nationwide.
Stephanie Lokits, who oversees vaccination efforts in the county for the public health department, has seen vaccinations slow down since a peak in March, when clinics attracted hundreds of residents. Now only 10 to 20 go through a weekly vaccination clinic held at Taylorsville County headquarters, a 1,600-square-foot town with an old theater, a courthouse, a few empty shop windows and a few small businesses that are located slowly. from the pandemic.
While Kentucky has seen a decline in cases in the past seven weeks, nearly all of the confirmed infections and deaths reported last month have been in unvaccinated residents.
“I think the philosophy we’re really trying to get across is that every shot we can deliver to a person is a positive thing,” Lokits said. “I think it’s kind of the place where a lot of health departments and a lot of providers are in.”
Lauren Slone, a practicing nurse who leads the vaccination effort at a community health center in Taylorsville, said she learned through conversations with her patients that misconceptions about the long-term effects pose real problems. .
He found that most people talk about eventually getting vaccinated. The challenge, he said, is “to get people to talk to me in the first place.”
While appointments at the center are not filling up as quickly as she would like, Slone thinks an effort to distribute information to local media and high schools has led to more vaccination appointments.
“I think, you know, one way to reach adults is when teens know it,” Slone said. “If your teen asks you to get it, then maybe this will encourage you a little bit.”
A June drive-thru clinic held after the briefing was well attended by young adults. That’s another good sign, Slone said. Only one-third of Kentuckians aged 18 to 29 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 83% of residents age 65 and older.
However, getting the word out may be more difficult in a rural county because some residents are not on social media or do not have consistent Internet access. And in sparsely populated areas like Spencer County, some people don’t feel the need to get the vaccine as soon as possible, said Roanya Rice, director of the district’s health department.
In addition, Spencer County has lower rates per capita than neighboring counties and the state as a whole, meaning the threat may seem far-fetched to some.
Rogers, now fully vaccinated, enjoys the freedom to permanently remove his mask, eat at a restaurant or visit with relatives without worry.
“I waited a long time,” he said. “I should have gotten there a long time ago.”