Counties hardest hit by COVID-19 push to catch up in vaccinations

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WTVD) -- Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper touted North Carolina's speed in vaccinating adults against the virus that causes COVID-19. According to the latest data from NCDHHS, more than 17% of the population older than 18 is fully vaccinated.

However, not all of North Carolina's counties are vaccinating residents at the same rate. In fact, the ABC11 I-Team found that some of the communities hardest hit by the pandemic were slowest to adopt vaccinations, while communities with low infection rates have some of the highest vaccination rates.

Chatham and Orange County top the list in central North Carolina for having administered the most vaccines, with 20 and 19% of the population over 18 years old fully vaccinated respectively. Both counties had some of the lowest infection rates in the state, with fewer than 600 total infections per 10,000 people in the last year.

On the other end of the spectrum, Hoke County has the third-lowest vaccination rate in the state, with just 8% of its adult population fully vaccinated as of Wednesday evening. At one point, Hoke County had one of the highest percentages of positive tests in the state.

Where can you get a COVID-19 vaccine in NC? Click here for our full list of locations offering vaccines

But in other areas hard hit by the pandemic, like Vance and Nash Counties, vaccinations are actually outpacing the state's average rate. And though vaccinations are slower in Nash County's neighbor to the east, Edgecombe County, officials say hesitancy is declining.



"I think initially there's some hesitancy," said Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson. "I think with education, with a growing distribution of the vaccinations, there's been a greater acceptance of it."

He said officials polled residents about two months ago, and some residents listed their reasons for vaccine hesitancy: feeling the vaccines were too new, medical and governmental mistrust, even fearing an implanted transmitter in the vaccine. But, he added, the more people get vaccinated, the more these hesitancies diminish.

RELATED: Vaccine shopping? You should get the one that's made available to you, experts say

"People are not dying," Roberson said. "Clearly, the government is not tracking us, clearly a lot of these misnomers are beginning to go away."

He also added that public health officials and community leaders are particularly targeting minority communities to increase vaccine uptake among Black and Latino residents.

At Ebenezer Baptist Church, a vaccination clinic offers about 200 doses per day. Pastor Thomas Walker saw just how hard COVID-19 hit his community.

"I've never in my years seen anything that impacted our communities quite as this, and that's why we are giving it our all," Walker said.

Walker has provided relief to his community for decades, opening his hall during hurricanes and now offering his parking lots for vaccinations.

"That's what the church and our church, in particular, is about," Walker said. "We believe to lead by example and to meet people where their needs are."

Rocky Mount gets about 1,000 to 1,500 doses of vaccine weekly. Roberson said both Nash and Edgecombe counties are using 100% of the doses they are allocated each week. He said part of that is due to public health officials, politicians, and celebrities getting their shot and advocating for others to do so.

"Continue to beat the drum so that folks learn the message over and over and over," Roberson said.

RELATED: How to join waitlist for leftover COVID vaccines before eligibility opens

Roberson got the vaccination as part of Group 1 since he works in the healthcare field.

"It's just a great sense of liberty that I'm not sure I anticipated when I was getting the vaccinations," Roberson said. "So, I encourage anyone and everyone to take the vaccine."

He did add that it's important to continue to wear a mask and wash hands even after getting vaccinated, not only to protect yourself but to protect others around you who may not have gotten the vaccine yet.
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.