Agriculture, Well being And Enterprise Teams Work To Enhance Rural COVID-19 Vaccination Charges

President Joe Biden wants the country to be 70% vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 1, but rural areas are making far less progress on this goal than urban centers.

Agriculture, business and health groups attended a virtual national summit for rural businesses earlier this month to discuss improving vaccination rates in rural areas to share ideas and strategies.

In Missouri, 42 percent of St. Louis residents and 50 percent of St. Louis Counties aged 18 and over are fully vaccinated. That compares to much lower rates in rural counties, such as 24% in Dent County and 26% in Crawford County. Jackson County in Kansas City is 45%. Nationwide, 45% of residents aged 18 and over are fully vaccinated, according to the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know there are challenges reaching rural communities based on CDC analysis and studies by the Kaiser Family Foundation,” said Dr. Bechara Choucair, White House COVID Response Team Coordinator for Vaccination.

The message from the moderators at the summit was that health officials and vaccine advocates should change the way they talk about the vaccine.

“Instead of talking about vaccine hesitation, we need to talk about vaccine trust,” said Dirk Kempthorne, a former Idaho governor and chairman of the COVID collaboration. “We have to shift the focus”

The consortium of groups working on this effort also includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Center for Rural Strategies, the Rural America Chamber of Commerce, the National League of Cities, and the National Rural Health Association.

They have developed a number of online tools to help people and organizations better reach rural residents. This includes farming groups that address farmers and their existing knowledge.

“We all as farmers and ranchers understand that herd immunity really works,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau. “We’re not afraid to add a new vaccine to our herds across the country because we know the science behind it.”

The group also believes that business leaders with a strong presence in rural areas can have a tremendous impact.

“It is our responsibility as business leaders to speak to our employees,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association. “We have to ask them, ‘Did you get vaccinated? Do you have transportation to get vaccinated? And can I give you a couple of hours so you can get this and protect our business? ‘”

All of the group’s affiliates say that vaccinating needs to be a decision, not a mandate. But they also hope that better information and communication strategies will help people decide to vaccinate.

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