Southern states are seeing a pretty sharp drop off in the pace of COVID vaccinations — and the slowness can’t be blamed on supply. In Tennessee, the vaccination numbers on Monday were less than half of the highest days in recent months, with plenty of shots on hand.
Neighboring states like Mississippi are seeing a similar trend, and this is likely the beginning of a slowdown that was expected, state health officials say. The people who really wanted a shot now have it, and convincing those who don’t is getting harder.
Clint Satterfield is the superintendent of schools in Trousdale County and was hoping to increase his vaccine numbers by offering teachers the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has now been pulled from use for an additional safety review.
“It just raises more skepticism with people, and that’s unfortunate,” he says.
At an event in Trousdale County last week, a company partnering with the schools, AdhereRx, offered Pfizer shots instead, but no teachers stopped by. Franklin-based Adhere Health has been piloting pop-up vaccination clinics in rural communities.
One of the company’s executives, Cyndi Alexander, says her telepharmacy company specializes in “motivational interviewing” to help patients take the medication they’re sent. Similarly with COVID, she says it seems like there are often barriers that could be overcome.
For instance, many think they could contract COVID from the shots, she says, which is easily demystified. They also are concerned about money. At the Trousdale County event, they added the word “free” to the sign because so many people asked about cost.
“There is missing information or there is misinformed information,” Alexander says. “Those are the two reasons they don’t come.”
Rural counties in Tennessee are seeing the slowest uptake. The state’s vaccine tracker shows Grundy County has just 17% of residents with at least one dose. By contrast in the Nashville area, Williamson County, which is also the state’s wealthiest, has topped 40%.
But even urban areas are seeing demand soften. Davidson County is now offering walk-up vaccines at Music City Center. Fewer than 150 people a day are showing up without appointments, though the city was planning for at least 500.