COVID Vaccine Rate Falling Short in Rural Areas

Just 50 percent of rural residents have received the COVID-19 vaccine as experts say the rate should be closer to 90 percent. Dr. C.K. Babcock is a Clinical Associate Professor at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. Dr. Babcock says getting the vaccine helps protect you from serious illness from COVID-19, which you can get more than once.

“Absolutely, not a question to be asked, especially Omicron, it’s really easy to catch, and especially when you get COVID The normal way, you’re not protected forever. for those who don’t know it, your immunity goes away in as short as two to three months so after two to three months you have no protection, basically. That’s why the vaccine is so important. It’s why we like the vaccine, the vaccine seems to protect you for at least six months, actually gives you a lot longer protection, but the first six months are really good protection.”

Side effects from the vaccine are minor compared to the risks of getting COVID-19 without a vaccine.

“Two to three days, that’s what everybody is. The side effects are a sore arm, you don’t feel great for a couple of days, just like any vaccine, there’s no difference. The difference is that with COVID, it’s highly variable as to what you get. Most young people get it and don’t have a problem. However, some young people get it and still have a problem. I just talked to a good friend of mine in a very rural hospital who let me know that his hospital is full of COVID patients, he says people of all ages. And I thought for sure he would say we’re looking at mostly older people, which is what I expected from Omicron, and I was shocked about that, because I really expected it to be older people who had it.”

Rural residents seem more hesitant to get the vaccine, according to Babcock, who says getting the vaccine can help protect you and your family from COVID-19 and is a better option rather than leaning on natural immunity.

“That’s the question we’re all asking. We’ve got a lot of answers out there. It is a lot of vaccine hesitancy. Rural areas on average are about 50 percent vaccinated and that’s terrible. We need to break 90 If we want protection. So, if you want to protect people from this disease, you want to protect your friends and family, you need to get everybody you know vaccinated. We need nine out of ten people vaccinated to try to cut this disease back, and it also really cuts down on mutations, and it does give you much better immunity than actually getting the disease without any chance of long COVID, which is even more important.”

Further, the risks of getting long COVID are unpredictable.

“There is no predictors for it and it happens to young people, it happens to older people, it happens to healthy middle aged people. It’s a very risky thing and that’s why we really want the vaccine out there. We really want people to have minor adverse events like a sore arm or maybe a headache for a day or two and not have long COVID for a year of your life that you can’t get back.”

Dr. Babcock adds the pandemic is changing, and risks of getting COVID-19, or getting it again, are high.

“It’s becoming endemic rather than pandemic, and I’ve got news recently, one of our local areas is going to do away with their mask mandate, they’re just going to make it optional. Even though the numbers are high, they know that it’s high transmission, they’re basically saying this is an endemic virus. It’s here and it’s being passed around and everybody’s going to get it and you just need to live with it the best you can, which is going to be interesting to see what happens if our hospitals get overrun because that’s why we’ve treated as a pandemic the whole time. But basically, you’ll be at your own risk. And I think that in all honesty, it’s really what we are anyway, having rules of mass mandates does help protect some people.”

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines contact your primary care provider and visit vaccines.gov.