June 4, 2021

New coalition forms to strengthen vaccine uptake in rural America.


This coordinated effort is offering fresh tools and resources to help rural business and agricultural leaders educate workers and improve access.

According to a recent analysis by The Daily Yonder, Americans in urban areas are getting vaccinated at twice the rate of their rural neighbors. The most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that COVID-19 vaccine coverage was significantly lower in rural counties (38.9%) compared to urban areas (45.7%); those disparities persisted across age groups and by sex.  And, as rates of vaccination have slowed across the country, the gap between rural and urban areas has grown wider.  

In response to this challenge, we’ve joined with the COVID Collaborative, Ad Council, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Center for Rural Strategies, Rural America Chamber of Commerce, National League of Cities, the National Rural Health Association and The Daily Yonder to launch a new coordinated effort to strengthen vaccine uptake in rural communities.

Yesterday, we convened hundreds of business, agricultural, municipal and public health leaders for a National Rural Business Summit to explore ways to build vaccine confidence and improve access in rural communities. Our approach emphasizes strategies that leverage local leadership and messages that resonate with the people who live in rural communities.

Despite having higher rates of severe COVID-19-related morbidity and mortality, rural residents are less likely to say they are planning or considering getting vaccinated. According to new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in ten (11%) rural residents is still adopting a “wait and see” approach to getting their jabs, and nearly a quarter of rural Americans (24%) say they would “definitely not” get a COVID-19 vaccine.

At yesterday's Summit, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted, “We recognize there are multiple reasons why folks may be reluctant to get vaccinated. That needs to be acknowledged, and that needs to be respected. But it’s important to do what we can to educate individuals about the importance of getting vaccinated."

Employers can help close the rural vaccine gap

Information from trusted voices—including employers—can help build vaccine confidence and improve vaccine access in America’s heartland. We’ve worked with our Summit partners to distill key learnings and action items from yesterday’s event.

Listen with empathy to better understand rural American's questions or concerns about vaccination.

Our new Audience Insights & Messaging Guidance for Rural Communities, developed in partnership with the Rural America Chamber of Commerce and Rural Assembly, offers analysis of key questions and concerns from rural communities, as well as suggested messages that can help you start conversations with employees who are still undecided.

Share facts about vaccine safety and efficacy, and also why vaccines are important to you.

More than half of rural residents who are in the “wait and see” group say they would be more likely to get vaccinated after hearing that the vaccines are nearly 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19 or hearing that scientists have been working on the technology used in the new COVID-19 vaccines for 20 years. We’ve released a brand-new educational video series to help employers share vaccine facts with workers.

Partner with your local public health organization.

Public health agencies and community-based organizations can offer support and resources to help you share vaccine facts and organize on-site vaccine clinics for workers and their families.

Take steps to improve vaccine access for workers.

As National Rural Health Association CEO Alan Morgan said at yesterday’s Summit, “Last year we saw more rural hospitals close than at any point in the last two decades. In rural communities, we're talking about two issues: an access issue and a communications issue." Businesses can make it easier for rural workers by offering internet access to schedule vaccine appointments, or by offering transportation, food or modest financial incentives to encourage vaccination. Rural employers can also consider workplace or mobile vaccine clinics and partnerships with local Cooperative Extension System field offices to help improve vaccine access for workers and their families.

Collaborate with local community and faith organizations to support education and vaccination efforts.

The National Rural Health Association has released a concise, rural-focused toolkit to help rural community leaders engage their communities in vaccine conversations.  And, the Ad Council has launched a comprehensive new communications and messaging toolkit full of resources created specifically for rural communities to meet residents where they are, giving equal access to information so everyone can have the facts and decide for themselves whether getting vaccinated is right for them.