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Elbert County among top counties with lowest vaccination rates

Posted at 9:23 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 23:50:57-04

ELBERT COUNTY, Colo. — Getting shots into arms is slowing down, with data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showing a 15% drop in vaccination rates last week compared to the week before.

Elbert County is among Colorado's top five counties with the lowest vaccination rates.

The five least vaccinated counties in Colorado include Crowley County, where 17% of the county population is vaccinated, Bent County at 18%, Washington County at 27%, Cheyenne County at 28% and Elbert County at 28%.

Dwayne Smith, the Public Health Director for Elbert County, said vaccine hesitancy is very high in rural communities.

There are currently four approved vaccine providers in the county serving a population of 27,000, and only about 7,500 people are vaccinated.

The first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in Colorado in early December, but the first shot in Elbert County happened on Feb. 2. Smith said factors include vaccine allocation, limited staffing and refrigeration storage.

To get more shots into arms, Elbert County Department of Health and Human Services partnered with the Elizabeth Fire Department.

“Folks may feel more comfortable going to the fire department than to local public health to get their vaccine or test,” Smith said.

Smith blames shot hesitancy on misinformation on social media, political stance, local and federal government distrust and, in part, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause.

“That put us further behind the eight ball,” Smith said.

The Elbert County Department of Health and Human Services is working to dispel misinformation to get more Coloradans to roll up their sleeves by providing vaccine information online. The county is also working with local and state health agencies, but Smith admits it’s an uphill battle.

“To think that in rural communities we are going to reach 90% of folks with vaccinations is unrealistic,” Smith said. “We are probably looking at, best case scenario, something between 50 and 60%.”

Outside the Safeway in the town of Elizabeth, Tayler Kane loaded up her car with groceries. She admitted she hasn’t been vaccinated. Kane said she was initially hesitant because she was pregnant, and not much has changed since she gave birth five weeks ago.

“I don’t know if it’s really for me. Definitely need a lot more information — it’s too new, I think,” Kane said.

Mike Mosher feels the rollout was simply too quick, and he doesn’t trust the vaccine manufacturers.

“Completely against it [the vaccine],” Mosher said. “I stay pretty healthy, so I don’t even take the flu shot.”

Kristina Jensen was on the fence for months, but after weighing her options, she signed up and received her first dose.

“A lot of people say, 'Wait until everybody else gets it. Then, I’ll be okay,' but it’s our responsibility, I think, to go ahead and do it,” Jensen said.

Bob Kohl was driving through the small town of Elizabeth when he stopped at the supermarket. He’s from Aurora and said he’s fully vaccinated.

“I think they are crazy,” Kohl said.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis called the vaccination slowdown a “hesitancy or laziness issue."

Vaccination appointments are more accessible than ever, and appointments are available on the Elbert County website.

“The vaccines are safe, effective, they have gone through a rigorous testing protocol," Smith said. “We encourage folks to look at the science behind the testing.”

While getting a shot is a personal choice, experts say it’s the only path to return to a somewhat normal life.