Ohio’s rural counties face different challenges to get the community vaccinated

Isolated pockets like the Amish community prove challenging
Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 12:50 AM EST
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published March 2, 2021 at 12:56 PM EST - Updated March 2 at 4:13 PM on

ASHLAND, Ohio (Great Health Divide) - Rural counties, like Ashland and Holmes, are facing special challenges getting vaccines to residents. Ashland County is only at 9.5% vaccinated--the state average is 14.4%.

That may change this week, though.

“This week is so exciting because we’re getting the Johnson & Johnson for the first time but we were only getting 100 vaccines a week so that was our challenge,” said Sheila Pryor, Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator for the Ashland County Board of Public Health.

Ashland County will get 300 doses this week, three times its normal allotment. But despite the new vaccines, they face an old problem.

“We’d like to get to the Amish community,” said Pryor. “It’s a very hard way to get out to those isolated areas but we do our best and definitely we do make an effort to make it to all the areas of the county.

Ashland has also used its small size -- about 54,000 residents -- to its advantage, displaying the tight-knit nature of its community.

“For a county our size, to have even 50 volunteers is good, we have 90 right now,” said Pryor. “They’re all very active and they like to help so that part is good. I’m just super pleased with how the process is going.”

Gov. Mike DeWine will hold a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the challenges in the rural areas of the state.

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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