Rural Health Departments Face Barriers in Vaccine Rollout

Feb. 3, 2021, 4:50 p.m. ·


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As COVID-19 vaccine rollouts continue across the state, rural health departments are starting to see some barriers to their distribution.

Shannon Vanderheiden, director of the West Central District Health Department based in North Platte, said they are vaccinating almost every day through their mass clinics, but vaccine allocations are limited.

“In reality we've had to cancel clinics because we didn't have enough vaccines to cover the clinic that we were wanting to vaccinate," she said.

Mel McNea is the chief executive officer of Great Plains Health in North Platte and said he’s concerned those who live in remote areas do not have convenient access and information to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“If we have individuals in their late 70s or 80s and if they have to travel huge distances to get the vaccination, then it might be a struggle for them to get their way as far as transportation," he said. "And they might get a feeling or a sense that 'Well, I'm isolated out here. My nearest neighbor is two miles away. Is that really a priority for me or not?”

Vaccine hesitancy has also become a barrier. Vanderheiden said up to 48-percent of those surveyed in priority groups want to get vaccinated.

“We had hesitancy because people wanted for there to be more research around the vaccine, that it was too new in their opinion to get the vaccine," she said. "We had people who do not believe in vaccines, that didn't want the vaccine. We had people wanting to wait until more people were vaccinated.”

Vanderheiden said she’s optimistic that if more people are vaccinated, there will be less hesitation and people will be more apt to take the shots.