Since Covid-19 vaccinations became widely available to U.S. residents this spring, the metropolitan vaccination rate has climbed faster than the rural vaccination rate. The result is a “vaccination gap” between rural and urban communities.
For the first time since the Daily Yonder started tracking vaccination data in mid-April, the gap between rural and metropolitan vaccination rates decreased for two consecutive weeks.
The change has been slight. The gap narrowed by only a tenth of a percentage point each week – from 12.0 points three weeks ago to 11.8 points last week.
In the graph below, the gap between the metro and rural vaccination rates is represented by the dotted line. The gap widened more quickly from April to July and has increased only modestly since.
Two weeks ago, the 0.1-point improvement in the rural-urban vaccination gap came from an increase in the number of new vaccinations recorded in rural counties plus a decline in new vaccinations in metropolitan counties.
Last week, both metropolitan and rural counties had fewer new vaccinations than the week before. But the number dropped by 10% in metro areas and only 6% in rural areas. The result was a net reduction of the gap by 0.1 points.
Rural counties recorded about 229,000 newly completed vaccinations last week, down from 244,000 two weeks ago. In metropolitan counties, newly completed vaccinations numbered about 1.3 million, down from about 1.5 million two weeks ago.
Currently 43.7% of the total nonmetropolitan population of about 46 million has completed a Covid-19 vaccination regimen. In metropolitan counties, 55.5% of the population of about 282 million has. (We’re using the Census Bureau 2019 population estimates in our analysis.) The actual number of vaccinations is higher because of “unallocated” vaccinations, which are recorded only at the state level and not assigned to specific counties.
Last week, Maine and Wyoming had the highest percentage-point gains in rural vaccinations, at 0.58 percent each. While the state’s had identical percentage-point increases, their cumulative vaccination rates are worlds apart. Maine has vaccinated 63.2% of its rural population, while Wyoming has vaccinated 41.2%.
Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, and Utah – which all have below-average rural vaccination rates – each increased their rural rate by more than half a percentage point in the previous week.
Illinois had the smallest percentage-point increase in rural vaccinations, followed by West Virginia, Michigan, Georgia, and Vermont.
The map below shows the percentage-point increase in rural vaccination rates for the previous weeks. Click on the states to see how many vaccinations were completed and other data.
The list below shows the current vaccination rates for rural (nonmetro) and metropolitan areas. The table also shows the gap between rural and metropolitan vaccination rates. Only four states (Arizona, Massachusetts, Alaska, and New Hampshire) have higher vaccinations in rural counties than urban ones.
The state with the biggest gap in rural and urban vaccination rates is Florida, where the rural fate is 19 points lower. Nebraska, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Ohio all have rural-metro vaccination gaps of greater than 11 points.