Older people in rural counties more likely to get vaccinated

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2021

ST. PAUL — In Minnesota, those 65 years and older are eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, but whether they are inoculated has a lot to do with they live.

In some rural Minnesota counties, older residents are more than twice as likely to have gotten at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine than if they live in most parts of the Twin Cities metro area, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Many of the places in Minnesota with the highest vaccination rates for people 65 and older are in rural areas that have multiple streams of the vaccine.

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Mahnomen and Red Lake counties, for example, have vaccine coming in from the state and the federal governments, to clinics, pharmacies, local health departments and Indian Health Service facilities. Both are among the top five counties statewide with the highest vaccination rates among residents who are 65 and older.

“Rural residents are older, on average, than urban residents,” said Carrie Henning-Smith, who directs the University of Minnesota’s Rural Health Research Center. “And as we’re prioritizing older adults, and health care workers, we should be seeing higher rates of vaccination in rural places.”

If some rural communities are getting seemingly disproportionate allocations of the vaccine, that’s as it should be, she said.

People are more likely to be connected with their local clinic, their local health care system. There’s less confusion about ‘which system do I go with,’ because you have fewer systems to choose from in the first place,” Henning-Smith said.