Like most of the country, COVID-19 vaccination rates are dramatically different across the region. While shots might rise in one southern state, the vaccination motivation could be at a standstill in another state. Sometimes, these stark differences are just a stone throw’s away, one county over across the border.
Here, people often travel back and forth every day — to work, pick up groceries or visit family members.
So what’s it like to live in a place with such wide vaccine disparities?
“I’m currently living with a positive COVID result and knowing that there are people who are unvaccinated who are here visiting, bringing with them everything from their area of the state, from their area of the country—that was definitely a big risk that I wasn’t prepared for,” said Olivia Brittschneider of Mecklenburg County, N.C.
The nation has changed dramatically since March 2020, and COVID will be around for the immediate future. Many U.S. health experts, including the U.S. surgeon general, believe the COVID-19 vaccinations from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are the most viable way to beat the virus and return to a resemblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. But as cases rise along school-aged children and hospitals are struggling to keep up with the demand of oxygen, hesitancy remains for Southerners to get fully vaccinated.
As of August 30, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted three areas where vaccination rates varied by more than 20 points in counties on opposite state borders.
In Madison County, Ala., home to Huntsville, the fully vaccinated rate among eligible residents was 56%, compared to neighboring Lincoln County, Tenn., where 37% of eligible residents were fully vaccinated.
Caddo Parish, La., home to Shreveport has 43% of eligible residents fully vaccinated compared to 17% in Miller County, Arkansas.
Meanwhile, 57% of residents who are eligible for the vaccine in Mecklenburg County, N.C., received the shot versus 39% just across the state line in Lancaster County, S.C.
Reckon interviewed vaccinated residents in these communities about living and traveling in these counties.
“I can say that it is honestly nerve-racking. We have been going hard for people here in Shreveport, Louisiana, to get vaccinated or be safe. And people who are not vaccinated come over to our, our parish, and then they pass it,” said Dorian Ford, a Caddo Parish, La., resident