KANSAS CITY, Mo. — New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show certain parts of the country are falling behind when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations. Specifically, urban areas are outpacing rural ones when it comes to inoculation, which could slow the fight against the virus – and the metro is no exception.
In urban areas of Kansas, 49.7% of the population is vaccinated, according to the data, but in rural areas, the vaccine rate falls to 41.3%.
In Missouri, the disparity is even larger, with 41.3% of people in urban areas being vaccinated, compared to 31% in rural areas.
“What we found from a vaccine hesitancy standpoint was that there was a contributing set of factors," said Dave Dillon, with the Missouri Hospital Association.
One factor, he said, is politicism.
“If you look at one of the primary drivers for vaccine hesitancy, conservatism is one," Dillon said. "It’s more likely that it is the conservative nature of rural residences that is driving this, than it is the convenience.”
Also contributing to some of the disparity in numbers, he said, is not having enough vaccine supply in the beginning when demand was high.
In Douglas County, large vaccination events helped inoculation rates initially until demand simmered.
“It was a big site," said George Diepenbrock, with the Lawrence-Douglas County Department of Public Health. "We did see people from all over the community, but we have branched out since then to have smaller sites to try and improve access for people across the community and especially outside of Lawrence.”
Douglas County is seeing a mix in vaccination rates, with rural Eudora among the county's top three for highest vaccinated. In comparison, urban Lecompton is in the county's bottom three.
“The truth is, is that this [vaccine] is very effective and the quicker we get to where people realize that, and they begin to understand that these perceived barriers like cost aren’t real at all, I think we’re going to see the rates continue to rise," Dillon said.
The CDC said public health departments should work with doctors, pharmacies, faith groups and employers in rural areas to address the gap in coverage.
“Just helping people visualize the value and getting a vaccine and what it would mean it does seem like I can help overcome some of the hurdles that people might be experiencing," Diepenbrock said.