UAB works with rural communities to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations

COVID vaccine hesitancy in rural areas

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Vaccine hesitancy continues to be a problem in Alabama, especially in rural communities.

That’s why UAB is working to address concerns some may still have about getting a COVID-19 shot.

One of UAB’s rural health care experts said those who are still reluctant to get a COVID vaccine fall into one of three categories: those who just flat out won’t get the vaccine due to mistrust, those who are misinformed, and those who are simply cautious.

But he says education is the key to getting more people vaccinated.

Dr. William Curry said one of the biggest factors to vaccine hesitancy initially was vaccine supply. But with more COVID-19 vaccine products pouring into the state Dr. Curry says UAB and other organizations are working hard to find out what’s holding people back.

“We’re all involved with connections with communities through community health workers, our own staff, talking to emergency management people, local government leaders, and especially churches,” Dr. Curry said.

He said an extensive amount of work is needed to gain the trust of those who are suspicious of the government and pharmaceutical companies.

He believes the faith-based community can turn the tide.

“We’re particularly focusing on pastors, leaders in churches, denominations to try to get the point across that this is not only a smart thing to do, it’s a good thing for your congregation, for you group to know that everybody’s safe to get back together to worship and to have other kinds of gatherings,” Dr. Curry explained.

But he admits it’s been an uphill battle trying to change minds.

He said people who live in rural communities tend to be skeptical about big government solutions because they’re often marginalized.

“It’s important to try to listen and understand what people are concerned about, to listen and understand what their resources are and how they’re best deployed, and then ask them how we can best help them,” Dr. Curry said.

He added that if enough people who are on the fence decide to get the vaccine, the closer we’ll be to getting herd immunity, and out of this pandemic.

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