Christian County ranks among the worst in Kentucky for the share of residents who have received a coronavirus vaccine with roughly 14% of adults fully vaccinated, according to a federal report.
Among the state’s 120 counties, Christian County was second to last for both the percentage of all residents (10.6%) and for residents 18 and older (14.5%) who are now fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday afternoon.
And the county ranks in the bottom third of the state, in 86th place, for residents 65 and older (45.8%) who are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC COVID Data Tracker.
The problem isn’t lack of vaccine supply, said Christian County Health Director Kayla Bebout.
The health department’s regional vaccination site at the James E. Bruce Convention Center has seen numerous appointment slots go unclaimed. Some people have not returned for a previously scheduled second shot.
Bebout said there’s been a noticeable decline in the number of people being vaccinated at the Bruce Center for the past two weeks. She acknowledged there appears to be some level of vaccine hesitancy among local residents. There could be several reasons, she said.
One factor is younger adults who don’t believe they run much risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
In some cases, younger people seem to think, “Why should I get the vaccine? … If I get the virus, I’m not going to die from it,” Bebout described.
But state officials are urging — and in some cases begging — everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to get it so Kentucky can achieve herd immunity against COVID-19. Health experts agree that more than 70% percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to safely achieve herd immunity.
Twice in daily coronavirus updates this week, Gov. Andy Beshear listed Christian County’s regional site as one of the clinics in Kentucky with a large number of open appointments.
Every county surrounding Christian County had a higher percentage of vaccination in three categories that the CDC tracks — entire population, adults (18 and older) and seniors (65 and older) — with one exception. Todd County’s senior rate was slightly lower than Christian County at 44.4%
The regional vaccination rates as of Friday were:
- Christian — 10.6% of all residents; 14.5% of adults; 45.8% of seniors.
- Caldwell — 21.1% of all residents; 27.2% of adults; 56.3% of seniors.
- Hopkins — 22.4% of all residents; 28.9% of adults; 62.8% of seniors.
- Muhlenberg — 23% of all residents; 28.9% of adults; 56.3% of seniors.
- Todd — 13.4% of all residents; 18.3% of adults; 44.4% of seniors.
- Trigg — 20.4% of all residents; 25.9% of adults; 52.7% of seniors.
Christian County’s demographic profile does suggest there are groups represented who are hesitant to get the vaccine — including Black residents, white evangelicals and people who are politically conservative. Pew Research Center surveys have collected data from these groups.
For example, in February, 61% of adult Black survey respondents said they would get the vaccine or already had compared to Asians (91%), Hispanics (70%) and whites (69%). This could be a factor in Hopkinsville more so than most other Kentucky communities since roughly 31% of the city’s residents are Black.
Also in February, 54% of white evangelicals said they had or planned to get the vaccine, compared to 64% of Black Protestants and 72% of white Protestants.
Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 83% percent said they had or will be getting the vaccine, while 56% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents responded this way.
Despite the possible impact of vaccine hesitancy in the community, Bebout said she was surprised by the disparity in vaccine rates the CDC reported between Christian County and the rest of the state.
“Up until the last couple of weeks, we were ranging anywhere from 95% to 99% of usage,” she said, referring to the percentage of doses received that were administered.
Christian County was among the first locations in the state to open a regional vaccine site. It opened on Jan. 12.
The first vaccines in the county were administered beginning shortly before Christmas at the health department and Jennie Stuart Medical Center, mainly to health workers and first responders.
Vaccines for the general public became more widely available when the Bruce Center clinic opened.
Bebout questioned how Christian County’s vaccine rate could be near the bottom in Kentucky since local residents had a convenient place to get the coronavirus vaccine earlier than most other communities in the state.
However, because the Bruce Center is a regional site, it has been an option for anyone who is a Kentucky resident. The health department did not initially keep records of each vaccinated person’s county of residence, and Bebout did not provide records to Hoptown Chronicle of counties represented in the vaccine logs since local officials began keeping those records.
Bebout said the Bruce Center had administered more than 21,000 shots by early this week. She did not have a breakdown of how many of those were people who had received both shots of the Moderna vaccine. The health department has administered the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine just once, on Wednesday — so the vast majority of vaccines given at the Bruce Center require two shots.
The CDC’s report lists 7,445 Christian County residents who had been fully vaccinated. The report is updated by 8 p.m. (EDT) daily and it compiles data on vaccines administered at regional sites like the Bruce Center, hospitals, federal clinics and pharmacies. The data is reported to the CDC by federal, state, local and territorial immunization information systems.
In Christian County, Walgreens and Kroger are also administering vaccines. The hospital and long-term care facilities do as well for specific populations.
The CDC tracker does not provide a breakdown of county vaccines by individual clinics. The agency notes there are instances where county of residence cannot be determined for people who are vaccinated.
For that reason, nearly 60,000 Kentuckians who were fully vaccinated were not attributed to a county, Kentucky Health News reported in a story Friday.
Beginning the week of April 12, the health department will administer vaccines at the Bruce Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays — reducing the schedule by one day a week. An appointment can be scheduled online. The department is shifting some of its efforts to mobile clinics that will administer the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There are four scheduled in April with the goal of reaching people who might not go to the Bruce Center.