The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and the Center’s Deputy Director for Science have expressed gratitude to the nation’s Cooperative Extension System for addressing vaccine hesitancy by educating and raising awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID-19 in rural America.
“Rural America continues to be especially hard hit by the pandemic, and the lives of families and communities continue to feel the impacts,” said Director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Dr. Carrie Castille. “Because our communities are faced with making important decisions about vaccinations, having a trusted, independent community agent to aid in decision making is essential. Cooperative Extension agents and educators are well placed to have that discussion and provide objective educational information. Talk with your Extension agent, and then decide.”
Through an interagency agreement with the CDC and NIFA, Cooperative Extension units at Land-grant Universities across the nation received funding and launched the Cooperative Extension Immunization Teaching and Engagement (EXCITE) in June 2021 to address health disparities among rural and other underserved communities.
Acting director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Samuel F. Posner said in a letter to the U.S. Cooperative Extension System, “Agents and educators are trusted messengers working in every county across the nation and are uniquely situated at local levels to engage with their communities and build partnerships to improve community health.”
“As my team listens to our partners in the field, we hear story upon story of the need for one-on-one, honest discussions with trusted messengers to address concerns about COVID-19 vaccines,” said Posner.
“Tailored messaging in rural areas works,” said Posner. “As of today, over 76% of people in the United States have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose. In rural areas, 71.4% of people ages 18 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine – with the percentage of those reporting that they definitely will get vaccinated on the incline. Thank you to those who helped realize these achievements by getting vaccinated and helping others do the same.”
“To reach the remaining individuals who are hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, we are relying on trusted messengers to provide education about the vaccines, share information on how they were developed, and address myths about what’s in the vaccines,” he said. “There’s an enormous need to cut through the confusion that exists about why everyone should receive a vaccination, how to get a vaccine, where to get vaccinated, and what services are available to get them to the point of vaccination (if needed).”
The CDC recently published a COVID-19 Vaccination Field Guide Addendum: Rural Considerations for Vaccine Confidence and Uptake Strategies. This resource complements CDC’s 12 COVID-19 Vaccination Strategies for Your Community and content on How to Conduct a Rapid Community Assessment, both designed to support the work of communities across the U.S. to increase vaccine confidence and vaccine uptake.
“I know how hard field agents work, the long hours and distances traveled especially in rural and frontier areas, and how much you all care about the community members you serve. Thank you for all that you do!” Posner said.