As Trusted Voices, Farmers Could Be Key To Boosting Rural Vaccination Rates

When he first became eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in Illinois, Tom Arnold, 68, says he didn’t need any convincing. He raises cattle, hogs and chickens in Elizabeth, a small rural town in the northwest corner of the state.

After all, who better to understand why herd immunity matters than a herdsman?

“Being a livestock producer, I’m well aware of vaccinations and vaccines,” he says. “That’s how we develop immunity in our animals. We’re always vaccinating the breeding stock to pass on immunity to the little ones.”

Boosting COVID-19 vaccination rates in rural America is now less a problem of access and more an issue of trust. Only about 40% of people in the county where Arnold lives, Jo Daviess, are fully vaccinated, so he doesn’t get why people are acting like the pandemic is over. Scientists say under-vaccinated parts of the country like Jo Daviess are at serious risk, especially as the more contagious delta variant spreads rapidly.

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