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New vaccinations in rural America last week reached their highest level in three months, according to a Daily Yonder analysis.

The increase in newly completed vaccinations came as the rural death rate from Covid-19 climbed to twice that of metropolitan areas.

Rural counties reported approximately 362,000 newly completed vaccinations last week (hover over bar graph below to see raw numbers of vaccinations). That’s an increase of about 20% over two weeks ago and the largest number of new vaccinations recorded in rural counties since the third week of June. In metropolitan counties, the number of newly completed vaccinations climbed by about 9% compared to two weeks ago.

The rural vaccination rate reached 40.4% of the total rural population – an increase of 0.8 percentage points from two weeks ago. The metropolitan rate also grew by 0.8 percentage points to 52.2%. The metropolitan completed vaccination rate remained steady at 11.8 points higher than the rural rate. (See graph below, hover over lines to see previous weeks' rates.)

The Daily Yonder’s weekly vaccination analysis covers Friday through Thursday, September 10 to 16. We track vaccination rates by the percentage of the entire population that has completed their vaccination regimen.

Most Counties Report Higher Vaccination Numbers

  • Nearly two thirds of the nation’s 1,976 nonmetro (rural) counties completed more vaccinations last week than they did two weeks ago. About three-fourths of metropolitan counties had higher weekly vaccination numbers last week.
  • Eight states had 90% or more of their rural counties complete more vaccinations last week than two weeks ago.
  • These states included some that were already performing well, such as Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, and New York (which are in the top 10 nationally).
  • It also included some mid-level performers like Pennsylvania (ranked 21st in rural vaccinations) and Ohio (28th).
  • Also on the list was Tennessee, which ranks 41st in the nation for rural vaccinations, with only 35% of its rural population completely vaccinated.

Largest Weekly Percentage Change

To get a sense of where vaccinations are increasing at the fastest clip in rural areas, we looked at the percent of rural population newly vaccinated in the past week in each state (see the map above). The list of best performers included several states that are well below the national average. The good news is that these states are expanding rural vaccinations. The bad news is that they have much further to go to reach the national average.

  • In Mississippi, the percentage of the rural population that newly completed vaccinations last week grew by 1.4 percentage points to 39.4% (29th nationally). Alabama grew by 1.2 percentage points to 32.8% (44th). Ohio also grew by 1.2 percentage points to 39.3% (28th).
  • Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida – all in the bottom third nationally for vaccination rates — each grew their rural vaccination rates by 1.1 percentage points.  
  • Hawaii, which has been one of the highest-ranking states for vaccinations, also grew its rural rate by 1.1 percentage points, to 62.4% (third highest in the U.S.).

State Rankings

  • Massachusetts continued to have the nation's highest rural vaccination rate, at 70.6% of rural population. The state also has a high percentage of vaccinations unallocated to specific counties. That means the actual vaccination rates in both rural and metropolitan counties are higher than the reported rates.
  • Connecticut, Hawaii, Arizona, and Maine round out the top five.
  • Georgia remained at the bottom of the nation in rural vaccinations, at just 17.9% of the rural population completely vaccinated. But a fifth of the state's vaccinations are not allocated to specific counties, so the actual rural vaccination rate is higher.

See the chart below for more state-level rates.