Many rural counties outpacing NC cities in vaccinations

Many rural counties are outpacing more densely populated counties in vaccination rates.
Many rural counties are outpacing more densely populated counties in vaccination rates.(wbtv)
Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 3:13 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Many rural counties in WBTV’s viewing area are outpacing more populated counties in vaccination rates, according to NCDHHS data.

On April 1, NCDHHS shared the following data showing what percentage of the total population is fully vaccinated in each county:

Alexander: 14.5%

Ashe: 17.5%

Avery: 19%

Burke: 16.7%

Cabarrus: 11.7%

Caldwell: 16.6%

Catawba: 15.6%

Cleveland: 17 %

Gaston: 13.9%

Iredell: 14.3%

Lincoln: 14.2%

Mecklenburg: 12.2 %

Rowan: 11.5%

Stanly: 13.3%

Union: 13.3%

Watauga: 20.1%

State health leaders say their goal is to ensure vaccine distribution is equitable, including geographically.

Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper talked about challenges rural communities face in getting the COVID-19 vaccine into arms.

“In rural areas, a lot of them don’t have high speed internet access. A lot of them don’t have ways to know where to go and get the vaccine. So, in many ways rural areas have to work harder to reach people,” Gov. Cooper said.

But in the WBTV viewing area, many rural counties are outpacing more populated counties in vaccination rates. For example, Watauga County shows the highest percentage of fully vaccinated people in the WBTV viewing area at 20.1 percent. Mecklenburg County has 12.2 percent of its population fully vaccinated. Only Cabarrus and Rowan Counties trailed Mecklenburg County at 11.7 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively.

Earlier this week, Mecklenburg County Deputy Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington attributed the lower vaccination rates to several factors, including low vaccine supply and many people from out of state or out of county coming to Mecklenburg County to get their vaccine.

“Those vaccinations, while they happen here in Mecklenburg County, they count toward the home of the residence of those individuals,” Dr. Washington explained.

WBTV asked for updated percentages on how much of Mecklenburg County’s vaccine is going to people who live out of the county or out of the state. A spokesperson for Mecklenburg County could not get updated numbers to WBTV by deadline, but at the end of February the county reported about 4.9 percent of vaccinations were given to people who live outside of the county and about 3.8 percent of vaccinations were given to people who live out of state.

WBTV also spoke with Public Health Director of the Appalachian District, Jennifer Greene. Greene oversees public health in Ashe, Watauga and Alleghany counties.

Like in many counties across the state, Greene says they had to overcome logistic and supply challenges. She says they partnered with the Boone Chamber of Commerce to get information about the vaccine directly to business owners. They also got creative with where they were hosting vaccine clinics in order to reach a variety of people.

“We have done some clinics with the help of restaurant owners and business owners when Group 4 opened up so that’s been really helpful too,” Greene said.

She also says having a tight-knit community makes it easier to partner with agencies, businesses, and others to get the word and the vaccine out.

“I think when you’re a smaller community, it may be easier to make those connections and partnerships,” Greene said.

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