Buchanan County is not only among the bottom tier of places in Missouri with people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, it also falls behind comparable cities throughout the Midwest.
Decatur, Illinois; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Joplin, Missouri; Gary, Indiana; and Sioux City, Iowa, all have populations similar to St. Joseph, and all have higher vaccination rates.
Macon County, Illinois, where Decatur is located, has 43% of people fully vaccinated, while Kalamazoo County currently a has 63% rate compared to 21.5% in Buchanan County. Lake County, Indiana, where Gary is, has a vaccination rate of 51% and in Woodbury County, home to Sioux City, 42% have completed vaccination.
Only Jasper County, Missouri, where Joplin is located, falls near St. Joseph’s rate with 26% of people fully vaccinated.
St. Joseph Health Director Debra Bradley said it’s unclear why vaccine hesitancy differs so widely among similar cities in the same region of the country.
“I feel like there is always a lot of misinformation, and I just encourage people to really look at the research and try to find science-based evidence,” Bradley said.
Bradley said she believes the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine will convince more people to get the shots.
“We are reaching out trying to educate people. We’re trying to make the vaccine easily accessible for people. We have all the pharmacies in town who are providing it,” Bradley said. “It just comes down to people making that decision for themselves.”
Marisa Hosier, a spokeswoman for the Macon County, Illinois, Health Department, said one of the main strategies her agency has used is meeting people where they are by going out to the community and having Wednesday walk-in clinics.
“We held a panel with local medical experts who were willing to discuss the vaccine and specifically vaccinating children and then shared it to the community,” Hosier said.
Hosier said Macon County ranks at No. 42 out of Illinois’ 102 counties for full COVID-19 vaccination. She said she thinks they encounter the same barriers to getting people vaccinated in her county that take place across the nation.
“I still encourage people to talk to their family and friends who received the vaccine to find out how they responded to the vaccine and what they did to help it make themselves feel better,” she said.