Full Length Research Paper
While urban communities experienced high levels of infection at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, rural communities experienced an increase of confirmed cases during the fall months of 2020. Rural Americans were also among the most hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of [State] extension professionals related to the COVID-19 vaccines in rural communities. Qualitative methods were utilized to gather data from extension professionals in rural area of [State], where vaccine uptake was below average. Results revealed frustration with the vaccine process, vaccine norms, and skepticism and mistrust to all be contributing factors to vaccine hesitancy in rural communities. Extension professionals discussed not feeling comfortable discussing topics related to public health with their clientele, citing the topic being outside their expertise. Practical recommendations from this study included utilizing a grassroots approach rather than relying on mass media, providing messages related to the COVID-19 vaccine that focus on education, rather than promotion, and testing new messages before they are disseminated.
Key words: Health communication, extension, vaccines, motivated reasoning, qualitative research.
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