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In the past month, the number of rural Americans newly vaccinated for Covid-19 fell to its lowest level since vaccines became broadly available to the public in spring 2021, according to a Daily Yonder analysis.

Since mid-December, an additional 500,000 rural residents completed their vaccination regimen for Covid-19. That’s a weekly average of 125,000 newly completed vaccinations. Previously, rural counties logged their smallest number of vaccinations the week before Thanksgiving 2021, when about 144,000 rural people completed their vaccination.

The rate of new vaccinations in metropolitan counties also declined, but not as deeply. An average of 1.2 million metropolitan residents completed their Covid-19 inoculation in the past four weeks. That’s similar to the pace of metropolitan vaccinations in the weeks leading up the Thanksgiving 2021.

As of January 13, 2022, 47.9% of the rural population was completely vaccinated for Covid-19. In metropolitan counties, 61.1% of the population was completely vaccinated.

That makes the rural rate about 22% lower than the urban rate (on a percentage-point basis, the difference is 13.2 points). Currently, the death rate from Covid-19 is about 30% higher in rural counties than in metropolitan counties, according to a Daily Yonder analysis. The rate of new infections is about 25% lower in rural counties compared to metropolitan ones.

Best Rates

  • Massachusetts retained its position at the top of the list of states with the highest rural vaccination rate, followed by Connecticut, Arizona, Maine, Hawaii, and New Hampshire.
  • Arizona had the largest percentage-point gain in its rural vaccination rate over the past month. The state’s rural rate grew by 2.9 percentage points, to 70.3%. Pennsylvania’s rural rate grew by 2.5 points to 48.2%. And Virginia’s rural rate grew by 2 percentage points to 45.6%.
  • The rural vaccination rate is higher than the metropolitan rate in only four states: Arizona (73.0% rural vs. 55.6% metro); Massachusetts (78.5% rural vs. 72.0%  metro); New Hampshire (65.8% rural vs. 62.8% metro); and Alaska (59.5% rural vs. 53.9% metro).

Worst Rates

  • Florida has the worst gap between its metropolitan and rural vaccination rates. The state’s rural rate of 43.7% is 20 points lower than the metropolitan rate of 63.9%.
  • Nebraska’s rural rate was 19 points lower than its rural rate (61.3% metro vs. 42.0% rural).
  • Other states with large rural/urban gaps were Illinois (a 16 percentage-point gap); Pennsylvania (15 points); Missouri (14 points); Texas (14 points); and New York (13 points).
  • Georgia had the nation's worst rural vaccination rate -- 24.4% of total population. The actual rate is likely higher because of vaccinations that are unallocated, or not assigned to specific counties.
  • Missouri had the second lowest rural rate, at 38.4%.
  • Rounding out the lowest five states were Alabama (39.5%), Louisiana (40.6%), and Tennessee (41.7%).

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