Rural Doctors Fight Vaccine Distrust, Conspiracies Along With Covid

Doctors in rural areas say being the first to get vaccine shots will not only keep their patients safe, but it will also help combat distrust in their communities

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Thursday night, Dr. Thomas Huth, vice president of medical affairs for Ried Health in Richmond, Indiana, plans to become the first person to receive a coronavirus vaccine shot at his rural hospital, which will be one of the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine in the country.

His decision comes with two goals: to prevent potentially spreading the virus to his elderly patients and to communicate to the surrounding rural communities that the vaccine is safe and available.

“We plan to do that on camera in a very public way to help people feel comfortable with the vaccine,” Huth said. “It’s important that as a health care leader in this area, we’re also leading the way on this important initiative.”

Rural communities will see a particular challenge in distributing the vaccine, as officials and health care workers there will have to quickly cobble together communications networks across large areas while also contending with faltering and underfunded public health systems. On top of all that, there exists rampant distrust of medical advice — much of it shared, sown and re-emphasized by President Donald Trump, who has many supporters in rural areas.

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