Gap widening between NC counties struggling, successful in vaccine push

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The gap is starting to widen between the counties doing relatively well in the COVID-19 vaccine push and the ones doing poorly, a data analysis found.

The analysis found those counties near the top five weeks ago generally continuing to perform better than the ones that were near the bottom then in terms of adult residents who are at least partially vaccinated through the state’s providers, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The top and bottom counties were separated by 40 percentage points on April 20, with Dare County (58.9 percent) leading the way and Onslow County (18.6 percent) trailing the pack.

That gap widened to 42 points this week, with Orange County taking the lead at 62.6 percent and Onslow still in last at 20.4 percent.

Many of the counties doing the worst a month ago have barely managed to make a dent in their rates: Of the 14 counties that were below 30 percent five weeks ago, half failed to increase their share by at least 2.5 percentage points.

“There are those who … for whatever reason, whether it’s because they have questions about the vaccine, or because they’re having trouble accessing the vaccine, they still are not yet vaccinated,” said Dr. Alexa Mieses Malchuk of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine’s department of family medicine.

“So I think having a proactive and targeted approach to reaching out to those people and answering whatever questions they have providing education, and of course, vaccination services is what we really need to do,” she added.

At the other extreme, some of the counties doing the best five weeks ago tend to be effectively running up the score.

Nearly a quarter of the state’s 100 counties were at 40 percent or better in late April. Nine of them increased their numbers by at least four percentage points with five adding more than five points — including Mecklenburg (7 points). Hyde, Wake and Orange added at least six points apiece.

The vaccination push continues to break along party lines, with the rates for counties won by Democrat Joe Biden growing faster than in those won by Republican Donald Trump, though counties won by Trump outnumber those won by Biden by a 3 to 1 margin.

A total of 45 percent of adults living in the Biden counties are at least partially vaccinated, an increase of three percentage points from five weeks ago. Conversely, 36 percent of people in red counties are partially vaccinated, up just three percentage points from April 20.

A poll this week from The Economist and found 76 percent of people identifying as Biden voters are fully vaccinated, compared to 54 percent of those identifying as Trump voters. Conversely, 26 percent of those saying they voted for Trump responded that they wouldn’t get vaccinated, compared to just 2 percent for Biden voters.

Duke infectious disease specialist Dr. Cameron Wolfe called the conflagration of politics and the vaccine rollout “mind-numbing.

“COVID is not a bloody political issue,” Wolfe said. “It is a health issue.”

CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.

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