Rural Tennessee struggles to get people vaccinated, younger adults may be the problem

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BEDFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – In a state already lagging behind in vaccinations with just 37% of people fully inoculated, many rural counties in Tennessee are facing a starker reality— falling behind the state average.

“I didn’t want that virus, that’s the reason I got it,” said Joe McCall who lives in Bedford County, where just a quarter of the residents are fully vaccinated.

Now, there’s a renewed focus to get people vaccinated.

“Our best way, possibly our only way out from underneath this pandemic is to get people immunized,” said Dr. David Aronoff, Director of the Infectious Diseases division at Vanderbilt Hospital.

Rural places like Bedford County are causing some concern with only 25.7% of the residents fully vaccinated.

Marilee Rianda who also lives in Bedford said younger adults are part of the problem.

Rianda, who is vaccinated, said, “Our son’s not going to get vaccinated until he has to.”

“When a young person is protected from getting infected they’re less likely to be part of the chain of transmission that leads to an older or more debilitated person getting COVID-19 and perhaps getting hospitalized or worse,” Aronoff said.

McCall is experiencing similar struggles to convince his older children to get the vaccine.

“My sons neither one of them, they’ve, I think one of them was scheduled for the shot and he never did get it and I don’t know why,” McCall said. “I told them all — you better go out there and get that.”

Dozens of rural counties in Tennessee have vaccination rates lower than or just above 30%.

“I think that they probably feel somewhat invincible that they weren’t in that group that was going so sick and passing away and maybe with this new variant maybe they’ll wake up a little bit more,” Rianda said.

Doctors continue to press a stark reminder for unvaccinated people as COVID-19 continues to spread and mutate.

“You can get symptomatic, you can be left with chronic symptoms or you can have worse outcomes requiring hospitalization or death even if you’re young,” Aronoff said.

Vaccines are available at most pharmacies and some major grocery store chains.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health over 1700 Tennesseans 60 and under have died from COVID-19.

There are currently 2,300 hundred active COVID-19 cases in the state.

Since Jan. 1, Vanderbilt Bedford Hospital has administered 1,383 initial doses and 1,332 booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines, resulting in a total of 2,715 vaccines administered to the community.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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