Why are Rural Republican, Appalachian Communities Resisting Vaccination?


President Biden and health officials acknowledge that there are pockets of resistance to the coronavirus vaccine. Black and Latino urban communities were distrustful about the vaccine but efforts to address their concerns have been successful. However, for small, rural Appalachian communities, it seems like resistance to the vaccine is a lot more nuanced than the polls suggest. These communities are mostly

Republican, 95 percent white, and overwhelmingly Christian.  Their resistance is not as driven by politics as it is by mistrust and fear. People in communities like Greenville, Tennessee are wary of how fast the vaccine was developed, what’s in them, the lack of information about the long-term effects, and the inability to get their shot from their family doctors. They also resist politicians or Big Government telling them what to do… which routes itself back to the identity and self-image of the community.  

Communities find their sense of identity in local traditions, faith practices, and community events. People rely on advice from people they trust, whether that’s their pastors, church elders, or even a local store owner. Those who seem likely to get the vaccine are afraid of not getting paid time off to recover from side effects. Moreover, the very question of inoculation is dividing small, close-knit communities. People who have had their first or second dose of the vaccine rarely share that they’ve had the shot, for fear of being judged or ridiculed. Pastors and local community elders are wary of using the pulpit to preach getting the vaccine for fear that they would further divide the communities they serve. In Greene County, Tennessee only 31 percent of the vaccine eligible population has been inoculated. This number is way below the Tennessee number which has the lowest rate of inoculation in the country.