In this photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a patient receives a Covid-19 vaccine in San Antonio, Texas, in March 2021. (Photo by Lance Cheung)

A national online summit Thursday, June 3, will explore ways that small businesses and employers can help raise the vaccination rate in rural America.

The 90-minute virtual gathering will include presentations by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Dr. Bechara Choucair, vaccinations coordinator at the White House.

The event, scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern time, is free. (Registration information.)

Among the ways local businesses can help improve rural vaccination rates is providing facts about Covid-19 vaccination, allowing time off to get shots or recover from side effects, and hosting vaccine clinics at the workplace, according to event producers.

“The path to stronger immunity for all Americans runs right through rural communities,” said Stephen Massey, managing director of the Health Action Alliance, which includes major employers such as Walmart and public health organizations.

“Business and agricultural leaders can help their employees, workers and communities make informed decisions about vaccines and make it easier for workers who want to get vaccinated.”

The national vaccination rate in rural areas is lower than in metropolitan counties, and the gap has been getting bigger, according to analysis by the Daily Yonder. In the third week of May, the rate of completed vaccinations was 18% lower in rural counties than in metropolitan ones.

Experts say the difference is a combination of several factors, including personal hesitancy to get vaccinated and general lack of access to healthcare services in rural areas.

Businesses can help on both counts by “sharing fact-based information, sharing their vaccination stories, and supporting community vaccination efforts,” according to information distributed by the Health Action Alliance.

While large businesses have what they need to create their own vaccination campaigns, smaller businesses may not have access to the same resources and expertise, according to an op/ed in Fortune written by two members of the alliance. For these smaller businesses, the Health Action Alliance has prepared a range of materials, which will be introduced during the summit.

USDA Secretary Vilsack will speak about “strengthening Covid-19 vaccinations in rural America.”

Other presenters include:

  • Sheri Powell, Rural Chamber of Commerce.
  • Tina May, Land o’ Lakes.
  • Janet Adkinson, RFD-TV news.
  • Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation.
  • Alan Morgan, National Rural Health Association.
  • Dontario Hardy, mayor of Kinston, North Carolina, and member of the National League of Cities.

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Disclosure: The Health Action Alliance is a financial supporter of the Daily Yonder’s coverage of Covid-19 vaccinations in rural America.