STANLY COUNTY, N.C. — It has been almost six months since the COVID-19 vaccines first started shipping out across the United States and so far, close to 8 million doses have been given in North Carolina.
Across the state, health leaders are working through hesitancy and trying to make the shots as accessible as possible. But there are different trends in different parts of the state, and that shows in each county's vaccination rates.
The goal has been the same everywhere.
“We know vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives and we need to get everybody vaccinated,” Dr. Meg Sullivan, the Medical Director for Mecklenburg County, said.
But across the state, and the country, as supply builds, demand has plummeted. Just how far depends on the county.
Mecklenburg County health officials report that about 40% of the population is fully vaccinated.
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Looking at the surrounding counties, according to the latest state data, Gaston and Iredell Counties both have 24.4% of the population fully vaccinated. Union County has 25.7 % of its population fully vaccinated, Rowan County has 20.4%, and in Stanly County, 23.7% of the population is fully vaccinated.
“We are rural, we are conservative, so we do, I think, see more vaccine hesitancy in our community. People are just nervous,” Jennifer Layton with the Stanly County Health Department said.
Rural counties appear to have lower vaccination rates when you look at the numbers, but in context, health leaders there are pleased with the progress.
“It’s higher than I expected this soon. I'm glad to see the numbers are that high, that's fantastic,” Layton said. “And in fact, when I look at demographics, our vaccinated population lines up with the demographics of our population overall. And that's fantastic that means we don't have gaps."
And with 25% of the population in Stanly County partially vaccinated, in a few weeks’ time, about half of the people who live there will be protected. As they strive to try and reach herd immunity, health officials there know there's more work to do.
“We’re going to continue to do outreach out in the community, provide education and try to make it easier for people to get access to those vaccines, it’s just going to be in smaller numbers than it was before,” Layton said.
Vaccine uptake started off fast and furious but will likely end slow and steady, in every county across the state.