Race to vaccinate: Rural communities

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 12:13 PM CDT
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KEMPER COUNTY, Miss. (WTOK) - Rural and underserved communities have higher levels of vaccine hesitancy and parts of east Mississippi and west Alabama are included in that. Meanwhile, the delta variant continues to sweep across the U.S. causing a surge in COVID cases.

Dr. William Bracken with John C. Stennis Memorial Hospital in DeKalb says the distrust in the system for people to roll up their sleeves stems from misinformation on social media.

“The amount of information and the amount of false information that is given about the vaccine causes people to become scared about it,” Bracken said. “We are living in a fearful society now.”

Only 29% of Kemper County’s population is fully vaccinated.
Bracken says vaccinated people who get the delta variant will not have as harsh consequences as those who are not vaccinated.
“The ones that they have in ICU, the ones that are not doing well right now are the ones that did not get vaccinated. I’ve seen 93-year-olds who have come in the emergency rooms who have had their vaccinations. They may reacquire some COVID symptoms and may be COVID positive,” Bracken said, “But their symptoms aren’t nothing like what they would’ve been if they had not gotten the vaccination.”
Officials in Sumter and Newton counties tell us they are more prepared now than when cases surged last summer.
Sumter County Commissioner Marcus Campbell says there are opportunities for people in rural areas to get vaccinated and tested for COVID but people are choosing not to do that.
“We have some people who just don’t want to take the shot for whatever reason. I’m encouraging them and asking them to go ahead and get it done because it’s vital,” Campbell said. “You want to take care of yourself, and you want to take care of your family and friends. Any time you have an opportunity to get the shot that’s going to help. We have health experts saying it’s going to help. So, why not do it?”
Only 27% of Sumter County’s population is fully vaccinated.
“We have set up shop in the outlying communities so people could feel safe if they wanted to get vaccinated right there in their own communities. So, no reason for anyone to feel that they haven’t had the opportunity if they wanted to get vaccinated,” Campbell said.
Mississippi state Sen. Tyler McCaughn says now is the time for rural communities to make a change and get vaccinated.
“I do believe we are in a better position. I don’t think we should be sitting back saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be O.K.’ This variant is going to come through the population and we’re going to be dealing with some issues from it,” McCaughn said.
34% of Newton County’s population is fully vaccinated.
The senator believes the low percentage rate has to do with people not believing the vaccines are safe.
“I truly believe that people were waiting to see and make sure that it was a safe vaccine. I believe now we are at a point where it has been proven safe. Whether it be the Moderna, whether it be the Pfizer, I believe the Johnson and Johnson had some concerns and problems,” McCaughn said, “Regardless of which one you take, so far they’ve been proven to be safe vaccinations.”

To learn where to get vaccinated, click here. Or you may call your primary care provider to find the nearest testing or vaccination site.

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