Vaccine hesitancy continues in rural counties throughout Washington

STEVENS COUNTY, Wash. — With nearly six million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine already given in Washington, the state is on the way back to normalcy. But in some rural areas, vaccine hesitancy remains an issue.

Even as communities within Stevens County have seen a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases recently, the number of vaccines being given isn’t going up, and many residents are hesitant to get the shot.

“I have not, and I will not get it,” said Colville resident Chantelle Laramie. “I just don’t want it and I don’t, I don’t know. I had the flu shot once and I got super sick from it, so I refuse to get any other kind of shot like that.”

That feeling is shared by many within the Tri County area, but doctors say not everyone has the same sentiment. Some are open to the prospect of getting the shot.

“So they’re waiting to see, basically. So I wouldn’t say it’s so much hesitancy… a lot of people are just waiting to see kind of what happens with the vaccine,” said Dr. Edward Johnson the Chief Medical Officer for Providence Stevens County.

We spoke to Tom McCourt, who has a stand at the farmers market in downtown Colville with his wife. While he hasn’t received the vaccine yet, he isn’t ruling it out just yet.

“I’m still considering on that. I’m going to be going in for a doctor visit here in a couple weeks for a checkup. So at that point, I’ll talk it over with my doctor, see if that’s a good option,” said McCourt.

The differences between urban and rural areas are noticeable. In Spokane County, 45.9% percent of residents have at least the first dose and 36.1% percent are fully vaccinated. To the northwest in Stevens County, only 26.6% of the people have the first dose and 20.6% percent are fully vaccinated. Dr. Johnson says he understands getting the vaccine is a personal choice, however, he will try to give the best advice he can to his patients.

“I think we need to share those great success stories that we’ve seen so far,” said Johnson, “over the last few months, the only group that we’ve seen a decrease in the COVID rates are the over 70 group, and that’s because they’ve gotten vaccinated first.”

Moving forward, there will be no mass vaccinations sites in the county, instead it will be up to clinics and local pharmacies to give out the vaccine. Dr. Johnson says that will make it easier for residents to get it.

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