Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Lagging coronavirus vaccination rates among rural seniors hint at emerging rural-urban divide

Top part of NPR chart; next states were Montana, North Carolina, Kansas, Oregon, Kentucky and North Dakota, at 6.4.
Coronavirus vaccination rates among rural adults are mostly within 5 percentage points of urban rates, but rural seniors are falling farther behind their urban counterparts, according to a county-level analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Austin Fast reports for NPR.

"In some cases, data shows these rural-urban gaps are significant. Nebraska, Massachusetts and Louisiana have the largest gaps among seniors, with rural Nebraskan counties averaging about 19 percentage points behind the state's urban counties," Fast reports. "NPR's analysis reveals the gaps are already growing in some places. Urban counties in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Kansas all widened their lead over rural counties by more than 5 percentage points among seniors in the three weeks the CDC has been releasing daily county-level updates."

Several experts said that "the wider gaps in vaccination rates among senior citizens could foreshadow a brewing rural-urban divide," Fast reports. The lagging vaccination rates are likely due to a mix of hesitancy, lack of access, and messaging issues. Recent Kaiser Family Foundation polling found that rural Americans are 11 percentage points more likely than urban residents to say they definitely won't get a coronavirus vaccine.

However, NPR found some bright spots in its analysis of vaccination trends. "Rural counties in Arizona and Alaska have held sizable leads over urban counties since the end of March, when examining vaccination rates for the entire population, and rural counties in a handful of states like Wyoming, New York and Oregon have even gained a point or two over urban counterparts since the end of March," Fast reports.

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